I now pronounce you man and beard
I now pronounce you man and beard

The Bearded Queen

Behind the carefully polished, clean-cut Leave it to Beaver veneer of the 1950s, there existed an underbelly of shame and fear. This was not an era where self-expression was encouraged, or even allowed. McCarthyism ruled the day, women were seldom allowed to wear pants on television, and civil rights were a glimmering, slowly growing light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Liberace was a flamboyant anomaly. Most gay men during that time lived like Richard Chamberlain and Rock Hudson, who were dependent on a prototypical image of masculinity for their bread and butter and were forced to deny their instincts and emotions to be accepted. For homosexuals, the Fifties were by and large a time of psychological torment. For writer/director Richard Day, the decade made for a creative gold mine, allowing him to spin the pain of repression into a fabulous, kitschy gay comedy.

Day's Straight-Jacket lampoons the life of Hudson, whose cover was only blown years later, when he was diagnosed with AIDS. The film stars Matt Lescher, formerly of NBC's Good Morning, Miami, as Guy Stone, a silver screen star touted as America's most eligible bachelor. When his secret begins to compromise his future in the film biz, Guy's agent suggests he do what many golden era Hollywood actors were forced to do, grow a beard. Guy marries a dim-witted, starry-eyed studio secretary and stumbles through straight life, until he meets a man who just might be the love that he didn't know existed. Straight-Jacket plays like over-the-top fun, but it has a real and poignant message in these days of conservative government policy, when for an apparent majority of Americans the 1950s in retrospect look like an ideal decade.


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