On This Gay Day: In 1982 the film ‘Making Love’ was released

The film ‘Making Love’ was groundbreaking when it was first released

Actor Harry Hamlin recently reflected on the 1982 film Making Love, noting that his decision to play a gay man who has an affair with a closeted married man, pretty much killed off his career in film.

Hamlin had gotten film directors attention when he was studying at Yale, his performance in the lead role of the controversial play Equus soon saw him cast in Hollywood films, including the epic 1981 movie Clash of the Titans. 

Making Love was a groundbreaking film because it was the first movie made by a Hollywood studio that featured a same sex romance at the centre of its storytelling. Speaking to The Advocate screenwriter Barry Sandler noted that previously gay and bisexual people were either used a jokes or portrayed as evil criminals.

The film tells the story of Zach, an Oncologist, played by Michael Ontkean, who is married to a television executive Claire, played by Kate Jackson.

Unknown to Claire, her husband has been exploring his bisexuality on his lunch breaks visiting gay bars and picking up men in his car. When he meets a gay novelist Bart, played by Hamlin, he embarks on an affair.

The film was one of several movies featuring positive depictions of same-sex relationships that hit cinema screens in 1982, alongside Victor / Victoria, Partners and Personal Best.   

While Hamlin’s film career faltered after he took on the role, he soon found success on television appearing in the Sidney Sheldon mini-series Master of the Game and the long running TV series L.A. Law. More recently he’s appeared in the US version of Shameless.

Kate Jackson, who had left the cast of Charlie’s Angels in 1979 also returned to television where she found success with The Scarecrow and Mrs King. 

Michael Ontkean’s career wouldn’t take off until 8 years later when he appeared in the film Postcards from the Edge, and then took on his most iconic role as Sheriff Harry S. Truman in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

Also on this day in history: Franco Zeffirelli was born

Director Franco Zeffirelli was born on this day 1923. He is remembered for his 1969 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

The opera, theatre and film director came out in 1996, but noted that he preferred to be referred to as homosexual rather than gay. During his life Zeffirelli was accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour, an accusation that was denied. He died in 2019.

In 2023 the two stars of Romeo and Juliet filed a lawsuit suing the film studio Paramount for sexual harassment. Oliva Hussey and Leonard Whiting accused the studio of “sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud”.

The two actors said that when they signed up for the film, they were told that there would be no nudity required and they would wear flesh coloured garments for a bedroom scene. When the time came to film the scene though, the actors said they were pressured into preforming naked with Zeffirelli telling them the film would “fail” if they didn’t agree.

Hussey was 15 at the time of filming, while Whitling was 16 years old. They are seeking $500 million in damages.

Zeffirelli’s film work also included other adaptations of another Shakespearean work. In 1967 he filmed The Taming of the Shrew with then husband and wife actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In 1990 he directed a version of Hamlet with a star-studded cast that included Mel Gibson, Helena Bonham-Carter, Glenn Close, Ian Holm, Alan Bates, Stephen Dillane and Pete Postlewaite.

In 1996 Zeffirelli directed an adaptation of Jane Eye with Anna Paquin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Joan Plowright and William Hurt. In 1999 he released Tea with Mussolini the story of a young boy’s upbringing by a circle of British and American women during World War II in Italy. It starred Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Lilly Tomlin.

His final film was 2002’s Calls Forever, a homage to the opera star who had been a close friend of the director. Zeffirelli has directed Callas in the stage operas Norma, La traviata and Tosca. French film star Fanny Ardant played Callas.   

OIP Staff, this post was first published on 12th February 2020, and has subsequently been updated.

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