Judge Paul Pritchard is color blind.
"Sometimes a cigar is more than a cigar."
Director Mark Rappaport plunders cinema's golden age to present what he believes to be the secret history of Hollywood in The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender (Region 2). According to Rappaport, the likes of Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, and Cary Grant were just some of the legends that were (willingly or otherwise) involved in covertly spreading gay influence through the medium of film. Aided by Dan Butler (Frasier), who presents and narrates this documentary, Rappaport uses his extensive knowledge of classic cinema to present a succession of clips that he believes support his claims. So, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's Road To… movies are scrutinized for their fondness for ass jokes. Even a gag where Crosby and Hope inadvertently kiss when the girl they are aiming for dodges them is overly scrutinized. Everything, including Kirk Douglas' choice of wardrobe, comes into question. Poor old Jerry Lewis is even questioned for sticking his tongue out at a young boy. In fact, anyone who is in touch with their feminine side becomes a target for Rappaport and his burning need to out, if not them, then their roles.
Now, when Rappaport raises the subject of why audiences (particularly back in cinema's golden age) found the suggestion of homosexuality in movies humorous, whilst finding it unacceptable in real life, he hits upon a far more worthy topic of debate. This is a pivotal moment of the documentary, coming in at around the 20-minute mark. It suggests Rappaport has something to say, but instead of pushing on down this route, Color Me Lavender quickly reverts back to type and goes back to pointing out suggestions of homosexuality in old movie clips, safe in the knowledge that, out of context, these clips mean such claims carry more weight. As with Rock Hudson's Home Movies, many of these arguments are tenuous at best, and rely on a quip from Dan Butler to distract the audience's attention from the total lack of facts. At 100 minutes, this repetitive style of filmmaking outstays its welcome by a good hour.
If Rappaport is so sure of his claims, or rather suggestions, then why does he not go further and attempt to provide any concrete evidence? There are no interviews to add credence to anything he implies. Did he even try to speak to people within the industry, or their families? Without any such evidence, Color Me Lavender is nothing more than someone shouting "gay" at collection of old movie clips whenever there's even the slightest innuendo.
Ultimately there's a fatal flaw in Rappaport's filmmaking: If all his claims are true, and that Hollywood is indeed one big gay industry, well, so what? Where's your point (if you'll excuse the term)? It was suggested in Rock Hudson's Home Movies, but made far more clear here, that Rappaport apparently believes heterosexuals are shocked by the sight of homosexuals in the movies. In these more enlightened times, especially with regard to how society at large treats the subject of homosexuality, I'd like to think people care little for whether an actor or actress is gay or straight. Who gives a damn whether a movie is littered with subtle gay in-jokes or not? If I'm entertained, I couldn't care less either way. Had he pursued the question of why audiences find humor in the sight of Bob Hope in drag, or even addressed the issue of why gay actors suppress their sexuality from the public, Rappaport could have been onto something worthwhile; this is just pointless, and considering the persecution people have—and still do—face for their sexuality, more than a little aggravating.
Presented in a 1.33:1 transfer, Color Me Lavender has acceptable picture quality, which varies wildly from one clip to the next. The stereo soundtrack suffers from vastly differing volume levels. The sole extra on the disc is the short film, John Garfield, which briefly explores the actor's career.
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