The Sound of Music
Dir: Robert Wise
I was asked the other day to name my favourite film.
It would be far easier to ask my 100 favourite films.
I don't think I can possibly name just one.
But I mentioned a few.
'The Road Home' by Zhang Yimou is a film that I can watch time and time again and be bowled over every time.
The performance of Michael Redgrave in 'The Browning Version' is surely one of the greatest performances ever.
How could one not have 'It's a Wonderful Life' in a top list?
For a second, I thought about naming 'The Sound of Music'.
But I didn't.
And I feel a little ashamed.
I feel like the kid at school who didn't intervene when a smaller kid was being bullied, or who laughed at a joke I didn't understand just because I didn't want to seem 'uncool'.
Why, Judas-like, did I deny my true allegiance?
I suppose first and foremost, it's the gay thing.
The Sound of Music has become a gay event. Sing-A-Long events originated at the London Lesbian and Gay Festival, continued at the Austin Gay Film Festival, and went on around the world.
When asked at one of these screenings why the film was so popular with gay audiences, a drag queen named Gusty Winds replied, "It's got nuns, nazis. It's got Julie Andrews."
I'm still not sure quite why nuns and nazis appeal to the gay community. Maybe it is the uniform.
I understand that the world has changed, and being gay is now quite cool, but nevertheless I must admit that I would no more go out wearing a 'Sound of Music' t-shirt than I would wearing a pink vest and shorts.
'The Sound of Music' is not an isolated case. To admit that you like film musicals in general is virtually an acknowledgement that one is, to use the popular euphemism, 'a friend of Dorothy' - the phrase itself inspired by Judy Garland's character in 'The Wizard of Oz'.
In the list of gay icons, Judy is joined by other great entertainers such as Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Bassey, Bette Midler, Cher and Madonna.
These are all great, famous and talented artists. But to admit that they are your favourite performers would be virtually to admit that you are 'married to Liza', 'dating Rachel Bilson', 'an Uncle Arthur', 'interested in dance', or simply 'artistic'.
At the risk of causing offence to some of my good friends, I will add that when Rock Hudson wanted to know if someone were gay, he would simply ask 'Is he Canadian?'
Of course this is all ridiculous. Why is it that a teenage boy can wear a T-shirt showing a distinctly homoerotic picture of a WWF wrestler with his steroid-enhanced, baby-oil glistening muscles extended to the point of almost popping, or that rockstars can wear make-up, or that rugby players can all gather together in a little cuddle on a pitch and take nude baths together, or that football players can give each other big hugs after scoring a goal, and that is apparently not even in the slightest bit gay.
But if I were in a pub in East London and hummed three lines of a song from a film musical, I would probably be beaten up.
Well, I think it is ridiculous and unfair.
And I'm making a stand on this.
I'm sorry that I didn't name 'The Sound of Music' as one of my favourite films. It is a great film.
It has more hummable and memorable songs than just about any film you can mention, it has action and thrills. It is incredibly shot in 70mm. And it has a beautiful teenage girl expressing her sexual frustration in the song 'Sixteen Going On Seventeen'. What could be less gay than that!?!
I want 'The Sound of Music' back.
I am prepared to negotiate with the Council for Gay Icons. I recognize that we might have to give up something. I am proposing that we hand over Schwarzenegger. I know it means losing 'Predator', 'Commando' and 'Terminator. But I still think it's a fair trade. And it seems only right. Surely it's more gay to like Schwarzenegger than it is to like Julie Andrews, isn't it? Surely?
Or even better, how about van Damme? He has never really made a decent film. If we handed him over to the gay community, we'd lose nothing, and we might even be able to get Bette Davis back as part of the deal.
So, please. Stand forward, shout out 'I am Spartacus' and join us tonight for the totally non-gay screening of 'The Sound of Music'. Beer will be served. Lots of beer. Very manly beer. You may order cocktails if you wish, but there will be no cherries, or umbrellas. Please dress macho!