Classical Hollywood Cinema, Sexuality, and the Politics of the Face examines the representation of iconic female faces in the golden age of Hollywood – Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor – and the gay male fetishization of those faces.
Classical Hollywood cinema is given to an aesthetic and ideological struggle between rival scopic economies: an erotics of “to-be-looked-at-ness” is countered by a hermeneutics of “to-be-seen-through-ness.” The latter emerges triumphant, but the legendary female faces of Hollywood resist, in their different ways, a coercive and normalizing knowledge, which is the source of the gay male investment in them. A disciplinary society privileges a hermeneutics of gaze; the iconomic female faces of classical Hollywood cinema demand an erotics. Classical Holly Cinema, Sexuality, and the Politics of the Face explores the tension between the two through detailed readings of Ninotchka, Sunset Boulevard, and Suddenly, Last Summer in the context of early and mid-century cinema and culture. It includes, for instance, an analysis of D. W. Griffith and blackface, the Stonewall riots and the coming-into-voice of the modern gay subject, several major films by Hitchcock, Citizen Kane, and the emergence of rival standards of beauty, both female and male, in figures such as Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Rock Hudson, and James Dean.
This is an important study for students of queer theory, film theory and history, and gender and sexuality studies.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Face is a Politics
1. Face Value
2. The Face Machine
4. The Thing Machine
5. Blackface / Black Face
6. The Face of a Woman
Chapter 2. Ninotchka
1. "The Face of the Century"
2. "The art of the isms"
3. "I want to be alone"
4. "As Good as It Gets"
Chapter 3 Sunset Boulevard
1. "The Old Screen Idols"
2. "We had faces!"
3. "I speak, therefore I am seen"
4. "What comes out of his mouth"
5. "All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup"
Chapter 4. Suddenly, Last Summer
1. Snapping Queer
2. St. Sebastian’s Feet
3. Butt Cleavage
4. Devouring Creation
5. "I (almost) see a homosexual!"
Paul Morrison is Professor of English at Brandeis University and a member of the steering committee of the Program in Film, Television, and Interactive Media. He is the author of The Poetics of Fascism: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Paul de Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), The Explanation for Everything: Essays on Sexual Subjectivity (New York: New York University Press, 2002), and numerous articles on literature, film, and sexuality.