Shakespeare, the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video

By Lynda E. Boose; Richard Burt | Go to book overview
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16

THE LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK SHAKESPEARE'S NAME

New Shakesqueer cinema

Richard Burt


LOOKING FOR WILLIAM (IN ALL THE QUEER PLACES)

In 1977, Neil Simon's film The Goodbye Girl staged a parodic New York theatrical production of Richard III with Richard Dreyfuss playing a straight actor being directed to play Richard III as a gay character. The director explains his interpretation to the assembled cast as follows:

Richard III was a flaming homosexual. So was Shakespeare for that matter. But the angry mob at the Globe theater wasn't going to plunk down two shillings to see a bunch of pansies jumping about on the stage. It was society that crippled Richard, not childbirth. I mean read your text. He sent those two cute little boys up to the tower and we never saw them again. Oh, we know why, don't we? See, what I want to do here is to strip Richard bare, metaphorically. Let's get rid of the hump. Let's get rid of the twisted extremities and show him the way he would be today: the queen who wanted to be king.

In 1995, Ian McKellen, an openly gay actor who has fought Britain's homophobic Clause 28, played Richard straight in Richard Loncraine's film of Richard III.

I open with this juxtaposition to foreground what I take to be the non-identity of gay politics, a non-identity I take to be insurmountable and which complicates any Whiggish narrative of progress about gay representations in popular film. Some critics might wish to see a progression from the jokey The Goodbye Girl to the serious Loncraine Richard III, the end point of which would be a unified, non-contradictory, gay-saturated Richard III: a gay actor playing a gay Richard, filmed by a gay director, produced by the gay head of a major film studio, all of whom would uncloset a gay Shakespeare. It seems to me that such a narrative forecloses the queering of Shakespeare rather than proliferates a queer utopia

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