Chris and Don
Last night I watched “Chris and Don” for the first time. It’s a documentary that came out a few years ago about Chris Isherwood and Don Bachardy. Chris Isherwood was the writer of many famous books, I guess one of the most well known being “The Berlin Stories” which is the basis of “I Am A Camera” which is the basis of….. altogether class, CABARET. Very good. Now, think fast….. name Maureen Stapleton’s first three movies!
Not fast enough.
Chris and Don were longtime partners for over thirty years. They were also thirty years apart in age. They met when Chris was forty eight and Don was eighteen, and began this insanely beautiful relationship. Chris and Don teach us that marriage or not…. love is love. The film perfectly captures so much about their relationship and their time (vacations to the set of “The Rose Tattoo” to visit old chums: Tennessee and Anna Magnani) I was really struck by the fact that they never closeted their relationship, even in in the fifties and sixties, at a time when being queer in Hollywood and the rest of the world was pretty taboo…. they were openly a couple in public and private. While neither Chris nor Don weren’t movie stars, like so many closeted people of that time, they were (especially Chris) public figures in group of high profile people filled with closeted queers.
While there are certainly more and more Chris and Dons in the world today, I think if you were to go to a similar ‘Hollywood party’ tonight, you’d see just as many closeted people as you would’ve back in 1955 and I suppose that is one of the biggest hurdles in all this equality movement.
I conitnously hear tales from various director friends about casting their own movies and the number of closeted actors that come in, and while willing to PLAY a homosexual, would never allow themselves to be called a homosexual in real life. I suppose thats a tried and true story.
And I think it goes both ways. Not long ago I was at an audition and somehow casually spoke of myself being gay, I saw the casting person’s face drop. They gave me a look like I’d said something I wasn’t supposed to, revealed too much…. its not unlike the look I get when I tell people “I saw Nights of Rodanthe in the theaters”. The look is one of surprise and “I’d rather not have known that.”
So often when things like that occur or you meet the star of the newest Hollywood action movie that your roommate used to make out in college…. you think…. isn’t this 2009?
I wish everyone in the world could see “Chris and Don”. I think a lot of boys and girls would feel a little less scared to be honest and everyone else would be a little less scared of their honesty…. and maybe it’d start to feel a little more like 2009.