DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Coming Out Under Fire, Where Are We?, Reflections in a Golden Eye


Title: Coming Out Under Fire

Release Date:  1994

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 72 Minutes

MPAA Rating:  not given but suggest PG-13

Distributor and Production Company: Zeitgesit/ Fox Lorber /Deep Focus

Director; Writer:  Arthur Dong, based on the book Coming Out Under Fire by Alan Berube, published in 1990 by The Free Press.



Technical: Black and white

Relevance to doaskdotell site: gays in the military


Boy, how I love to watch black-and-white movies. They make me feel I'm really at the movies! I saw this at a screening arranged by Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network in 1996 and an auditorium owned by the Motion Picture Academy, in Washington, D.C. This documentary shows, from the point of view of several GI's ("government issues") what it was like to be a closeted gay during World War II. In the early days, the military tried systematically to root out the "queers." They did ask in those days, for example, whether an inductee liked girls. Later, by around 1943, the military, needing every fit bod it could get, pretended it could rehabilitate queers and make them into real fighting men.  Shilts, in Conduct Unbecoming, relates stories ot torpedomen good at their jobs almost tolerated in drag.  A film about the Midway Battle shown at Patriot’s Point in Charleston, S.C. (1993) shows bare-chested men in loving, if non-sexual embraces.


The draft, it will be recalled, had been reinstituted in 1940, for the first time since World War I. But shortly after World War I there had been a few scattered purges of gays from the military (especially in the military) but the subject never attracted the attention that it would in modern times.


Where Are We? Our Trip Through America (1992, New Yorker/PBS, dir. Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman) has two gay men (in a relationship) from San Francisco documenting their travels through the southeast. In North Carolina, at a drag show they meet three soldiers back from Desert Storm (1991) who talk about the ban just before candidate Bill Clinton proposed lifting the ban.  Other important scenes in the film occur at Graceland in Memphis and at an AIDS hospice in New Orleans. Many of the locals whom they talk to have little inkling that they are gay.


Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967, Warner Bros/Seven Arts, dir. John Huston, based on the novel by Carson McCullers, 110 min, R) sets up a love polygon at a southern Army base involving a repressed gay field grade Army officer Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando), his wife Lenora (Elizabeth Taylor), Lt. Col Morris Langdon (Brian Keith), his wife (Julie Harris), a stables Sergeant (Gordon Mitchell) and a Private Williams (Robert Forster). Eventually there are misinterpreted signals and body language involving Weldon’s urges, leading to tragedy. The film is in anamorphic Panavision, with very muted colors that make the film interesting to students of the use of film stock. For an overview of the technical issues of color manipulation go to or similar references.


Richard Haines of New Wave Film distribution wrote to me about this movie:   "Reflections of a Golden Eye" was a Technicolor dye transfer movie with a strange de-saturated color.  They increased the contrast during printing for the effect.  A similar method was used in "Moby Dick" in the fifties proving that dye transfer did not necessarily mean vibrant colors although that's what it's usually associated with
(i.e. "Singin' in the Rain", "Goldfinger" etc.). “

Related reviews:  American Beauty, Soldier’s Girl, Any Mother’s Son, Serving in Silence, Gays in the Military



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