by David Ehrenstein
Now that gay actors like Nathan Lane, Jim Parsons, Victor Garber, Jonathan Groff, and Neil Patrick Harris are “out of the closet” and on the rise, it’s hard to imagine just how different things were in the relatively recent past. Not only was the notion of being openly gay and having a viable career unimaginable, but gayness itself was also a concept polite society couldn’t countenance. “Homosexuals” subsisted on society’s margins, mentioned only in whispered gossip, fearsome psychiatric studies, and Conservative diatribes decrying perversion.
Hiding In Plain Sight
Still, in spite of it all, gay men managed to make their way to very top of the acting profession in the gilded closets of Hollywood. In this covert context, bigtime careers and personal lives proceeded with a calculated risk that can fascinate us today. Here are five of the most noteworthy examples of gay actors in the 20th Century.