Cast & Crew
On Christmas Eve in New York City, a gay bar called the Blue Jay is decorated for the holidays as regulars and new customers come and go, while employees such as Sadie Holzer and Helen, nicknamed "Mildred Pierce," happily anticipate the evening. Chemical engineer Barrett Hartman, whose wife has seen a matchbook her husband took from the Blue Jay and struck him, tries to tell his young, Swiss-born lover, Michel Mireaux that they must break up. Wealthy manufacturer Marvin Hocker comes into the bar with Jim Paine, his straight companion, a hustler with whom he plans to leave for Europe the next day. Meanwhile, faded, middle-aged blonde Lita Joyce arrives with a group of young men. When she sees Scott, a gay airline pilot with whom she once had an affair, she seethes over the fact that Scott prefers the attentions of young commercial artist Terry Nabour. After Jim becomes disgusted by the homosexuals at the bar, he asks Karen to dance, not realizing that Karen is actually a transvestite named Harry. When Jim finally discovers Karen's true identity, he flies into a rage and pummels him, after which the police arrive and force Jim to leave the bar. Meanwhile, in retaliation for Scott's lack of interest in her, Lita has secretly called Terry's mother and invited her to join him at the bar. When Terry's mother arrives and realizes that he is gay, she chastises him, says he is "dead" to her, then leaves. As Terry is consoled by Scott, Barrett leaves the bar to return to his wife, causing Michel to drink himself unconscious. Later, Barrett changes his mind and returns to the Blue Jay but by that time the bar has closed and Barrett sadly turns away, not knowing that Michel is still inside.
B & O Film Effects
Barret & Zervoulei
House Of Carl
Ross Gaffney, Inc.
Peter A. Sabino
Some of My Best Friends Are...
The film is loose in plot but very clear in theme - the melancholic frustrations of the gay community post-Stonewall, as reflected in a diverse assemblage of people frequenting a Greenwich Village gay bar on Christmas Eve. Not unlike Harry Hope's saloon in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, The Blue Jay is a dingy haven for sad and lonely souls whose dashed dreams and deep-seated anxieties invariably align with the state of gay rights circa 1971. It is a rough piece of filmmaking, replete with uninspired camerawork, splotchy lighting and muddled sound recording. And while the film is lauded for its emotional authenticity, it also traffics in its fair share of clichés about queer culture and identity which are especially glaring from the vantage point of almost 50 years' hindsight. Some characters impress with their authenticity; others conform to reductive stereotypes.
And yet for all its imperfections, Some of My Best Friends Are... was daring for its time, particularly in its treatment of queer individuals as emotionally vulnerable human beings, all of whom feel comfortable enough within the Blue Jay's auspices to give voice to longings and anxieties that had usually been swept under the rug by mainstream cinema. In his review for the New York Times, Vincent Canby said, "In almost every way, including its ad campaign, it's a second-rate spin-off from The Boys in the Band. Yet, because of this second-rateness, which includes hammy performances and a sentimental...Some of My Best Friends Are... may well be more accurate than the slicker, wittier Boys in the Band." Often favorably compared with the 1970 William Friedkin drama, which received a similarly split reception among the gay community at the time of its release, both films served as key signposts of the larger debate surrounding on-screen representation and the future of queer liberation.
The film's eclectic cast was, for the most part, made up of a lot of second and third-string actors and borderline unknown bit players. The exceptions - mostly women - include Rue McClanahan of Golden Girls fame; Fannie Flagg, otherwise known for her performances in Five Easy Pieces (1970) and Grease (1978) and for penning the 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café; and Warhol superstar Candy Darling, embodying a drag queen who represents the fringes of the gay community and stands as one of the film's most tragic characters.
Due to complex rights issues, Some of My Best Friends Are... has long been difficult to see and qualifies as a true cult rarity, circulating for the most part online and in battered transfers. In addressing a panoply of issues pertaining to queer identity with honesty and directness, Mervyn Nelson made a film that can justifiably be called an early queer cinema landmark - one that warrants greater visibility than it has been afforded.
By Stuart Collier
Some of My Best Friends Are...
The film's working title was The Bar. The credits above were taken from a partially viewed print at the Library of Congress. The title refers to the cliché "but some of my best friends are gay," which is considered by many to be a homophobic expression. The end credits include acknowledgments and thanks to several individuals and restaurants: Lt. Periwig, Mary Imperato, Allen Litke, O'Neals, Nepentha and Thursday's, as well as St. Paul's Cathedral "and all the boys at the bar."
The story runs for approximately ten minutes before the opening credits. As noted in the end credits, the bar in which much of the film's action takes place, called the Blue Jay in the story, was actually the Zodiac bar in Manhattan. As noted in reviews, Some of My Best Friends Are..., the first film to be written and directed by Mervyn Nelson, was shot entirely in New York City. Actor Carleton Carpenter, who portrayed "Miss Untouchable" in the picture, had been acting sporadically on television for many years and had not acted in feature films since 1959, when he appeared in Up Periscope (see below).
Many critics compared Some of My Best Friends Are... unfavorably to the 1970 film (and earlier play) Boys in the Band, which also dealt in a realistic way with gay life. The critic for Village Voice, which reviewed Some of My Best Friends Are... for a June 1979 revival, called it the "Grand Hotel of [gay] ghetto drama," in reference to its multiple, intertwining story lines that somewhat emulated the 1932 M-G-M film Grand Hotel. The film was also revived in New York in June 1995 as part of a "vintage camp" series in Greenwich Village, according to Village Voice." Modern sources add Calvin Culver and John Hartnett to the cast.
Released in United States 1971
Released in United States 1971