LGBT Media: Boyfriends in Biopics

The following article contains mild spoilers.

Bohemian Rhapsody gives Freddie Mercury two boyfriends. One’s an evil manager, Allen Leech, with a decent amount of screen time. He and Freddie exchange one, non-consensual, kiss. The other, Jim Hutton, is a masc, no-nonsense Saint with about 10 minutes of screen time. They meet twice by chance and exchange one, non-consensual, grope. The epilogue tells us they became life partners. It would have been interesting to see a proper build up to that. Freddie’s wife gets a lot of screen time and is repeatedly called the “love of his life.” I’ve no objection to this but the imbalance is part of a long time trend. Here’s a quick look at the boyfriends in some stage and film bios of GBQ+ artists.

Don’t Blink

The Imitation Game (2014).
Love interest: Christopher Morcom, played by Jack Bannon
Screen time: Approximately 3 minutes.

Mathematical genius Alan Turing helped crack German military codes during World War 2. He was tortured and driven to suicide by the British government when his homosexuality was discovered. The focus of the film is on Turing’s work and his friendship with Keira Knightley’s colleague.

His first love, Christopher Morcom, died of tuberculosis in childhood. Their two year friendship is represented in a bittersweet flashback. As far as I remember Turing’s later lovers do not appear in the film.

De-Lovely (2004).
Love interests: Various, including Jack, played by John Barrowman.
Screentime:  Approximately 8 minutes combined.

Composer Cole Porter and his wife, Linda Lee Thomas, were the subject of two anemic bio-pics. The second one, DeLovely, acknowledges his relationships with men but does not develop them. He’s blackmailed by a pimp, flirts with a singer (John Barrowman), and dumps a compassionate lover via the song “Goodbye, Little Dream.” The latter scene is so brief that the song does not appear on the soundtrack and a wiki summary does not mention the man’s name.

Straight(?) Boy Crushes

Gods and Monsters (1998)
Reluctant Love interest: Clayton Boone played by Brendan Fraser
Ian McKellen’s ailing James Whale lusts after, and eventually assaults, Fraser’s hunky gardener.

Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006)
Love interest: Perry Smith played by Clifton Collins Jr. and Daniel Craig respectively.
Capote interviews and exploits two death row killers for his novel In Cold Blood. Daniel Craig’s Smith enters a sexual relationship with Capote. Collin’s character does not. Both men suffer the same fate.

Abusive Relationships

The following films present artists in violent, abusive relationships. They get considerable screen time and more sex than the healthier relationships on this list. The films are extremely depressing.

Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Love interest: Lucien Carr played by Dane DeHaan

Total Eclipse (1995)
Love Interest: Arthur Rimbaud played by Leonardo DiCaprio

Wilde (1997) and The Happy Prince (2018)
Love Interests: Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, played by Jude Law and Colin Morgan respectively.
Robbie Ross played by Michael Sheen and Edwin Thomas respectively. The neglected Betty to Alfred’s Veronica.

Musical Theater

Andrew Bongiorno and Michael Mittman. The Boy From Oz. Celebration Theater 2016.

Musicals are less frightened of the “gay stuff.” Each gives the boyfriend a hefty subplot with two duets and a goodbye solo.

The Boy From Oz (1998 Sydney. 2003 Broadway).
Love interest: Gregory Connell. Played by Jarrod Emick on Broadway.
Stage time: Approximately 25 minutes.

Performer Peter Allen spends act one with Liza Minnelli and act two with Gregory Connell. Gregory’s presented as a masc, no-nonsense type who won’t tolerate Allen’s guff. Their first scene is similar to that of Jim Hutton’s in Bohemian Rhapsody, but their relationship develops beyond it. They  share two duets (“If You Were Wondering” and “Love Don’t Need a Reason”). When Connell dies of AIDS his ghost appears for a goodbye solo (“I Honestly Love You”).

Taboo (2003 Broadway).
Love interest: Marc
Stage time: Approximately 30 minutes.

The 2002 West End production focused on Luke Evans, playing a fan of Boy George who briefly becomes his off-stage lover. The 2003 production was re-written to make George the central figure. He falls for a photographer, Marcus, who the narrators refer to as a composite of George’s failed relationships. They share two duets (“Sexual Confusion” and “Love is a Question Mark”). Marcus dumps him in act two with the angry solo “I See Through You.” He then reports George’s heroin addiction to the tabloids. (A similar thing happened to Freddie Mercury).

Additional Films

Sean Bean and Nigel Terry. Caravaggio. 1986.

I’ve yet to see the following. If you’ve seen them please share your thoughts in the comments.

Caravaggio (1986). Nigel Terry’s Caravaggio falls for Sean Bean’s model.
Mapplethorpe (2018). Starring Matt Smith.
Tom of Finland (2017). Starring Pekka Strang.

Are there others you’d recommend?