MUSICAL CALAMITY JANE
King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 21-Sat 25 Jan; King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Tues 28 Jan-Sat 1 Feb
At a recent gay film study day at Glasgow’s CCA, the most popular lesbian film was undoubtedly Calamity Jane. Such a choice is indicative of the dearth of positive lesbian representation in mainstream Hollywood cinema. Is there any? The 1953 Warner Brothers whip- crackaway is hardly a masterpiece: it’s more of a B-movie that has become dearly loved by the public.
Watch the film with a gay audience and it’s easy to see Calamity Jane’s appeal. Its subtext is hardly subtle. Has any cowgirl tomboy ever been as spunky and as radiantly beautiful as Doris Day on career-best form? Who wouldn’t want her as a lesbian icon?
Three particular scenes stand out. Doris in shirt and tie with only her horse as company finally having the confidence to shout from the highest hill about her secret love that lives within her heart. Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster’s ‘coming out’ anthem deservedly won a best
Oscar. Calamity Jane learns about
femininity from the friendliest, gayest
dresser in Dick Wesson, who is a dab hand at drag. But the dykiest scene is the dissection of a 19503 butch/femme lesbian couple setting up home together. Calamity learns that ‘a women’s touch’ can transform a dusty log cabin into a gingham table-clothed, ﬂower- boxed palace. Lesbians in 1953 got a special frisson out of that scene, as do lesbians now.
Calamity Jane was not initially successful in America, as it was such a rip off of Irving Berlin’s superhit Annie Get your Gun but Britain really took it to its heart. The film’s lack of pretention, its melodic score and especially Day’s performance has made it stand the test of time.
In 1979, the film was reworked for the stage, with none other than Barbara Windsor as our blonde heroine. Now it’s time for former punk star Toyah Wilcox to put on the buckskins in Ed Curtis’ touring stage version. Her love interest is played by Hamilton-born Alasdair Harvey as
Has any cowgirl ever been as spunky?
Wild Bill Hickock. ‘After touring the country with the show since September, it’s not just lesbians who are Calamity Jane fans,’ says Harvey. ‘Doris Day had a huge gay male following also.’
‘lt’s a modern production in a new vein,’ says Harvey, who was the original star of Beauty and the Beast in the West End, and Sky Masterson in the Royal Lyceum’s Guys and Dolls. ‘We approach the characters in a real, truthful way. In the movie, Howard Keel was there to sing well, but like a lot of those leading men in 19505 musicals, he was very two dimensional. Our production concentrates on a story and people you care about rather than “here comes a big bit of set”.’
But will the 44-year-old Toyah Wilcox be as wonderful and tomboyish as the 29-year-old immortal Doris Day? Advance notices suggest a strong possibility.
LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! Madame Sata, Fri 17 Jan, GFT
Chicago, general release .00
Top: Madame Sata, below: Chicago
The Brazilian independent movie Madame Sata by Karim Ainouz charts the early life of Buenos Aries' drag queen/thief/hustler and family man Madame Sata. Reminiscent of Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Madame Sata is a criminal in love with a straight bit of rough. who finds dignity and glamour by becoming a diva. Performed with considerable aplomb by Lazaro Ramos. the film offers an authentic slice of 19303 life. full of poverty. pain and drugs. and the resilience to rise above it.
There's an exquisite lovemaking scene between the two men. The film is dark and moody in composition with only flashes of costume jewellery and scarlet lipstick to catch the eye. and that is its problem. Madame Sata is more concerned with the minutia of day-to-day life. concentrating on character and atmosphere rather than the full arc of the character's life. A pity. It prevents Madame Sara from being truly compelling.
Another movie of gay interest. but not explicit gay content is Chicago the
musical. Written by gay song writing team John Kander and Fred Ebb in 1975. Chicago was originally directed and choreographed for the stage by the legendary Bob Fosse. The current Broadway and West End revival. which is touring the world. owes much to Fosse's combination of eroticism, razzle dazzle and pulsating dance.
80 it's a shame that Rob Marshall's movie has none of the electrifying,
show-stopping energy of the live event.
and some shockingly poor dance. The main problem is Chicago, the film, is told from one perspective. the fantasy of shy man killer Roxie Hart. thus robbing it of variety and drama.
Renee Zellweger is a delight as Roxie. but sadly Catherine Zeta Jones doesn't have the required sparkle, and Richard Care is laughable as a song and dance man. The character of the lesbian prison warden has been made sexless. and so unfortunately is much of the film. The saving grace is Kander and Ebb's glorious. toetapping score. Go for that. Or buy the CD.
BOOK REVIEW SHERI JOSEPH
Bear me Safely Over (Virago $14.99) ea.
Sheri Joseph's debut novel pulls you into two quiet Georgia towns and tells the detailed story of two unusual lives. The book focuses on Sidra, a strong willed. horse- loving girl, and Paul. a gay teenager who can only find his thrills with brief encounters in cars and trucks.
We are introduced to the characters through the relationship between Sidra and her boyfriend Curtis. In love yet unsure of each other, they become engaged. Curtis hates his ‘faggot' stepbrother. Paul. whereas Sidra wants to protect him and do for him what she couldn't do for her wayward sister Marcy. Paul reminds her of her sister who. after years of living a wild life. eventually came home to their backwater town to die of AIDS.
For Sidra her escape is her horses. for Paul it is hitchhiking along the freeway and having sex with strangers and for Curtis it's his band. To make matters worse, Sidra moves Paul in with her and her mother, teaches him to ride and creates a relationship that infuriates Curtis. The final straw comes when Paul takes away Curtis‘ final thing of worship, Kent. the lead singer in the band. As they become lovers everything collapses. from relationships and trust through to the band. But it also becomes the turning point and saviour for Curtis‘ relationship with Sidra and his stepbrother.
The gentle look into other people‘s lives and their diverse relationships makes this a compelling book. A glimpse into the troubled mind of a boy who feels like an outcast in a sleepy town and the way it has an impact on his family, friends and sex life. Definitely worth a read. (Jane Hamilton)
16—30 Jan 2003 THE LIST 83