AbFab! RIP Mart Crowley Whose “The Boys in the Band” Film Debuted 50 Years Ago

I had already written this to post on March 17th which is the 50th anniversary of the release of "The Boys in the Band" film. But then the playwright Mart Crowley just died, at age 84! So posting this now.
Boys in the Band

After the play ‘The Boys in the Band” became a huge if unlikely success, initially resisted by producers and actors alike but brought to life Off-Broadway by many brave souls, director William Friedkin took it to the big screen, immortalized for audiences forever thereafter.

I was one of those young gays who saw it at an early age and got it, even if its adult situations and humor often went over my head. Growing up on a military base in Japan, we had one American TV station provided by the military called FEN (Far East Network) and watched pretty much everything they broadcast, including the after-Midnight movies which included repeated airings of such gay faves as “All About Eve”, “Something For Everyone” (Michael York as a bisexual infiltrator into Angela Lansbury’s family), “Lifeboat” (with Tallulah Bankhead), “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Stephen Sondheim), and “The Boys in the Band”. This was before streaming and all that, so was limited to what prints of films the queens at the TV station could get their hands on. To these brave, or bored pioneers, I salute you for my early education.

Anyhow, back to the film. Friedkin was a director who could have been described – if you were generous – as “emerging”, having on his cv “Good Times” with Sonny and Cher and “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” but also Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” which got noticed by “Band” playwright Mart Crowley and Dominick Dunne. (After this, Friedkin directed ‘The French Connection” and “The Exorcist”, so this didn’t hurt his career.) Unusually, he kept the Off-Broadway cast intact for the film, although to be truthful, there weren’t many actors clamoring for these parts, due to the anti-gay stigma. Friedkin also filmed it in New York, where it was set, doing most of it in the Chelsea Studios but filming the patio scenes on a real one, which belonged to actress Tammy Grimes who was a friend of the Crowley’s.

The lines are bitchy, flying fast and furiously, the characterizations very accurate, and the performances brilliant, especially Leonard Frey’s portrayal of Harold. The ending is depressing but truthful, representative of another age, capturing it like a Polaroid before fading.

Since the film debuted on March 17, 1970 – 50 years ago minus a week – the play has had many revivals and productions around the world, finally hitting Broadway in 2018 with a starry cast including Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells and Matt Bomer, all openly gay, showing how times have changed. This cast will appear in a filmed adaptation directed by the play’s director Joe Mantello (superstar Broadway director, who appeared as an actor in the the original production of “Angels in America”), produced by Ryan Murphy, to appear on Netflix later this year.

But here are some clips from the unforgettable original:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More Stories

A Night At Studio 54

Album Challenge Day 10: “A Night At Studio 54”

In my dreams, I get the nod and leave the pleading masses behind, through the velvet ropes, with Liza on my arm or perhaps I’m riding a horse, into the most decadent gathering since the Roman Orgies, a light show above swirling dancers, people doing who knows what in the balcony, and above it all, the moon snorting coke. Well, I was only 14 years old during the height of Studio 54’s heyday, so that hardly would have been realistic

Read More »
Soul Mining

Album Challenge Day 9: The The “Soul Mining”

Having found the perfect meta name for a band, Matt Johnson released “Soul Mining” in 1983 under the band name The The. Although Matt was subject to a bidding war and got a huge advance from the winning label, the record sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom; still, the homemade vibe enhances its authenticity, with intensely private thoughts and emotions set to a cheap drum machine. There was enough polish, however, to make it sound sensational, especially when

Read More »
Take That Beautiful World

Album Challenge Day 8: Take That’s “Beautiful World”

This is the greatest pop band that America’s never heard of. And what a story! Picture It: 1990. A British gay club in the middle of nowhere hosting a boyband of five straight lads, absolutely adorable even though their lead singer, Gary Barlow, thinks he’s fat and a bad dancer. Their manager, Nigel Martin-Smith, feels their path to stardom for his manufactured group is through the gays; he’s right because Take That eventually becomes a British phenomenon, unique in singing

Read More »
There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get 30% off your first purchase

X