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Gore Vidal, the American novelist, playwright, and essayist, made his writing debut at the age of 19 with the novel Williwaw (1946), based on his wartime experiences as an officer in the Army Transportation Corps. Key novels by Vidal in the history of gay culture include The City and the Pillar (1948), one of the first explicitly gay novels to be published in the United States, and Myra Breckinridge (1968), a sexually frank satire on gender identity with a male-to-female transsexual as its main character.

Vidal crafted dozens of one-hour original plays and adaptations for television anthology shows in the early 1950s. His most celebrated original teleplay is Visit to a Small Planet, which was first aired in 1955 and expanded and produced on Broadway two years later.

Vidal next worked as a contract-writer for MGM and earned his first screenwriting credit for The Catered Affair (1956), based on a play by Paddy Chayefsky. Other Vidal screenplays from this period include I Accuse! (1958), a study of the Dreyfus Case where a Jewish captain in the French army was falsely accused of treason, and The Best Man (1964), an adaptation of Vidal's own play, whose plot involves a presidential candidate's gay indiscretion. Vidal also worked, uncredited, on the script for Ben-Hur (1959), into which he infused a homosexual subtext.

Vidal's most noted contribution to gay cinema, however, is the script of Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). The film, based on a one-act play by Tennessee Williams (who also contributed to the screenplay), is a somewhat absurd and overheated melodrama of homosexuality, mental illness, and cannibalism. Although the MPAA initially objected to the film's content, the film's producer defended it by stating, "The story admittedly deals with a homosexual, but one who pays for his sin with his life." Perhaps due in part to its controversial subject matter, the film was a surprise commercial success.

Tennessee Williams, one of the world's foremost playwrights, created such renowned works as The Glass Menagerie (1945), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), and The Night of the Iguana (1961), among others.

While nearly all of Williams's major plays have been brought to the screen, most were made with little or no input from Williams himself.

In the late 1940s, Williams contributed several one-hour plays for the television shows Kraft Television Theatre and Actor's Studio. He received his first screenwriting credit, which he shared with Peter Berneis, for the film version of his play The Glass Menagerie (1950). The screenplay is generally faithful to the original material, although slightly compromised by a more upbeat and hopeful ending.

Although A Streetcar Named Desire was a tremendous critical and commercial success on Broadway, Hollywood was initially reluctant to film Williams's play. Industry censors were concerned about the play's bold sexual subjects, especially Blanche's rape by her brother-in-law Stanley, her promiscuity, and her recollection of her husband's suicide after she finds him with another man. Among other edicts, the MPAA insisted that changes be made to the script that would "affirmatively establish that the husband's problem was something other than homosexuality."

Williams reluctantly labored to produce an acceptable screenplay, although stating in a letter to the MPAA, "We will use every legitimate means that any of us has at his or her disposal to protect things in the film which we think cannot be sacrificed."

In the finished film, released in 1951, Blanche's speech about her husband's suicide was condensed significantly and the husband's homosexuality altered to an enigmatic "weakness of character," with implications of impotence. References to Blanche's promiscuity and attraction to young men were also removed.

In 1993, approximately five minutes of censored material, including references to Blanche's promiscuity and edited scenes from the rape sequence, were restored in a "director's version" re-release. Nevertheless, even with these restorations, there is little homosexual content in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Williams wrote only one script expressly for the screen, Baby Doll (1956), a heterosexual gothic tale of two male rivals and the seventeen-year-old girl for whom they compete. Religious leaders in the United States fervently opposed its release, due in large part to the film's portrayal of an unconsummated marriage; many movie theaters were forced to cancel their showings. Time magazine wrote that the film was "just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited." Despite such condemnation, Baby Doll did moderately well at the box office, no doubt bolstered by the film's themes of sexual repression, seduction, and infantile eroticism.

In 1967, Williams wrote a screenplay based on his 1945 short story, "One Arm," about a boxer who, after losing an arm in an automobile accident, turns to prostitution, only to murder a client and be sentenced to death. Undoubtedly because it was too daring for its time, the screenplay was never filmed. However, it, along with the original story, forms the basis for a recent play by Moisés Kaufman.

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