Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Forgotten '60s movies: The Leather Boys, 1964

Reggie and Dot are a young South London couple who get married before they really get to know each other. After the marriage, they quickly begin to drift apart. Dot seems content to pursue her own interests, until Reggie meets Pete, a fellow cyclist, and begins to explore his own identity.

Coming in at the tail end of the kitchen sink dramas of the black and white early '60s in England, Sidney J. Furie's offbeat litle drama plays like a real period piece now - two years after VICTIM, this is another look at homosexual relations in that pre-Wolfenden Britain, from producer Raymond Stross (that lesser Carlo Ponti). Furie was a Canadian filming in England (and he is still working now), his credits include a 1962 courtroom drama THE BOYS about misunderstood youth, Cliff's SUMMER HOLIDAY and WONDERFUL LIFE, Caine's THE IPCRESS FILE, plus a 1960 oddity I would like to see: DURING ONE NIGHT. Later he directed Brando, Sinatra, Redford and LADY SINGS THE BLUES (with some help I presume from Berry Gordy)!, a Superman film and tv series like LONESOME DOVE - an all-rounder then.  Like the American Richard Lester (I am gettting the Blu-ray of HELP! tomorrow!)  he had his finger on the pulse of British youth during that early '60s period, as indeed like Michael Winner (WEST 11, THE SYSTEM - British label), Clive Donner and others.

THE LEATHER BOYS sports a terrific cast: a blonde Rita Tushingham is ideal as Dot, the shrewish young wife - a contrast to her other roles like in A TASTE OF HONEY, A PLACE TO GO, GIRL WITH GREEN EYES, THE KNACK); newcomer Colin Campbell is naive Reggie (he had a long career in tv and in movies like Bogarde's THE HIGH BRIGHT SUN and SATURDAY NIGHT OUT - also revieved here, Bogarde/British/London labels). Dudley Sutton, as Pete, too had a long career and is still working, (Ken Russell used his odd looks well in THE DEVILS, as he did with that odd-looking Michael Gothard).  Add in Avice Landon (Avis Bunnage must have been busy that week) as Reggie's mother, Gladys Henson as his gran, and Betty Marsden as Dot's mother, plus Ronnie Briggs (who became Mike Baldwin in CORONATION STREET) as Dot's new fella  and the stage is set ...
Early '60s London is nicely caught in those black-and-white Scope images, with all those bikers on the North Circular and at that Cafe. Marriage does not work out for our young couple; Reggie is soon disenchanted, particuarly after that gruesome honeymoon at Butlins holiday camp in the rain - no foreign travel then! Dot has no interest in housework or getting Reg's dinner or keeping their room clean. Pete, a flamboyant and extroverted biker, becomes Reggie's best mate. The boys move in with Reg's widowed gran after Dot serves up baked beans once too often! Despite Pete's constant mothering, possessiveness, and jealousy (even at that desulotary seaside visit Reg cannot see that Pete is less than keen to chat up those 'birds'), naive Reg only figures out his friend's inclinations and feelings for him when Pete is outed in a dockside bar at the end of the film, with some very stereotyped clientele. There could be no happy endings for gay men in 1964, as Reg finally walks away from everyone to find his own identity - 
yes, its our old friend the coming-of-age drama but it feels right at this time and place. Poor Reg striding away alone into the future looks as forlorn as BILLY LIAR as that train pulls away carrying Julie Christie off to Swinging London. A year or two later England would be swinging, BLOW-UP and The Beatle's SGT PEPPER album would define a new era as mods dressed up and homosexuality was de-criminalised and younger gays could lead more open lives ... A great London film then, I'll bet my then biker friend Guy Tremlett would have liked it, as would Stan and others.

Next forgotten '60s movie: American 1965 schlock classic SYLVIA .... then the 'higher trash' of 1962's SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH ! before sinking my teeth into THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY and CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN ...

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