Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In The Spirit of Debate

Thank you anonymous for your well made points.  But you know I wouldn't be myself if I didn't challenge one or two things. I do so love a good debate!

 First during the filiming of Showboat in 1950 Agnes did not have flaming red tresses.
Anything to the contrary is colorized.  The first big screen debut of the flaming red tresses in color was Magnificent Obsession filmed in 1953 and released in 1954.
Big difference in color, yes? The newspaper article to which I referred is indeed fluff but relatively correct fluff that is dated July 29, 1952.  The date is squarely between the two images above.  This speaks for itself I think so no need to belabor it.

Point two:
I have never debated Agnes' preferring the female gender.  It is obvious she was far more comfortable with women and gay men than she ever was with straight men. She flirted outrageously with both sexes. What I have debated and will debate vigourisly is that there is no more proof that she was purely lesbian than there is proof that she was purely heterosexual.  Everyone seems to be devided into the two camps and insisting that she fit into one or the other.  My point is, always has been, that there is more to sexuality than column one or column two.  There is a column three and that is bisexual.  I don't debate that Jack Lee was a lousy husband and did far more damage than we will ever know.  I don't debate that Robert Gist was a prick and basically blackmailed Agnes.  Nobody has ever used that word but let's call it what it was, blackmail.  Gist made out like a bandit when they divorced and I think the length of the divorce proceedings speaks to the level of information that he had about her and she had about him.  I think, my opinion of course, that Agnes fell between lesbian and bisexual actually.  Most actresses like Janet Gaynor had beards.  They were readily available in Hollywood because there was a market for them. More than likely all the men surrounding these women categorized as "boyfriend" or even "spouse"  were most likely gay themselves and simply were constant escorts.  What I doubt and will always doubt is that Robert Gist was amoung them.  He was a gigolo pure and simple.  He sold himself to further his career.  The whole genre of "beards" served many purposes and benefitted all who partook.  My point with all of my flag waving, neon sign above the obvious, hello does anybody get this but me, writing has been and always will be that Agnes was a sexual enigma.  Everything seems obvious but there is so much more to her than what appears on the surface regardless of how you interpret the surface.  She was, indeed, mistress of misdirection.  I know that because I wrote an entire blog piece about her pretzel like interpretation of reality called Miss Direction.  You are right my pieces do lead one to conclude that she had a strong preference for the female sex.  What I ask for with her, though,  is what I ask for with myself, don't rush to judgement because there is no simple answer.  I have straddled the same fence for years.  I've had long term, 20 plus years, relationships with women and then I fell in love with a man.  I ask for people to be open to the idea that there is no box one way or the other.  That people can go through life loving someone "who is this or that, male or female", as Agnes said in the Boze Hadleigh interview.  That gender is a suitcase and you can pack one as well as the other.  That humans fall on every point along the line of sexuality from straight to gay and back again.  That we formulate ideas and think about her sexuality without the urge to cram her into one box or another.  That we accept that what made her the idol of millions of women over her career, she was attracted to women and they were attracted to her.  Sexuality is fluid in nature as are human beings.

I appreciate the chance for debate.  I relish it.  I think debate is essential in drawing a clear picture of who or what someone was, is or might be.  Continue questioning.  Always look to the obvious and then beyond it.  As I said before there is no simple answer to any of it but knowing that there are people who look at my work and get the point is gratifying.  To all of you who do I applaude your willingness to think outside the box and challenge your own point of view!


Anonymous said...

Some wise soul once said, " There are no facts, only interpretations." I love this!! Agnes is/was a work of art, and all great art, is highly subjective. In terms of Agnes' sexuality, it's my humble opinion, that she was essentially lesbian(albeit, with a few heterosexual lapses) In your post entitled, "Body Language," you eloquently make the case, that Agnes was "more comfortable," with the ladies. I think it went much further than that. I believe that her deepest romantic attachments were to women, and that any purported dalliances w/males can be chalked up to either the patriarchy of the times, or simple survival. Let's begin at the beginning. The childhood Agnes was a self confessed tomboy....the "despair" of her mother. As a young woman, she would go by the masculine moniker of "Bobby", essay the role of "Romeo" in an all girl production of "Romeo and Juliet(this is HUGE, people...the role of Juliet is one that most actresses would happily kill for;) and endure the rebuke of a much loved sister, "You never loved a man, as I have." Both of Agnes' marriages were disasters. You are SO right when you state that had Peggy lived, Agnes never would have married. Still, I think that AM actually loved Lee, at least in the beginning. Maybe she convinced herself, maybe it was a duty thing(Hadleigh.) At any rate the devotion was short lived. A scant five years later, she was shacking up with Peg LaCentra(your blog again!) In her early 40's the now middle aged Moorehead, moves to Hollywood, gets rid of Lee, and takes up with Robert....sigh. There is probably no episode in Aggie's life, that I find more tawdry than the Gist-Capades. Why, Agnes, why??? The man was fecal matter. The only reason that I can think of for the Moorehead-Gist hook up, was the schizoid nature of the times. The early 50's in Amerika were fraught with paranoia. HUAC was gearing up, and rags like "Confidential" were just waiting for any excuse to tear someone(anyone) in the public eye to shreds. Appearances had to be maintained. And so the "Lavender" marriage to Gist. The private life, and the public lie. Just as it had been with Lee. Separate tables. Sorry, bear w/me.... almost there. Have we discussed Aggie's career yet?? I think the reason that Agnes didn't play leading parts in Hollywood, had more to do with her lack of chemistry with men, than her looks. Now, when I say "chemistry" I mean sexual chemistry...not actor chemistry. THAT Aggie had in spades. With all sorts of actors....especially, Orson(more on him, in a bit) Aggie was beautiful. But the truth is, she remained in the "supporting" category for most of her filmic life. True leading ladies of the cinema, MUST have romantic chemistry with their leading men. It's what audiences swoon for. Aggie didn't create romantic chemistry with her male co-stars. She created it with her female ones. There is Sapphic subtext in almost all of AM's best Hollywood work. Check out "Keep your Powder Dry", "Mrs. Parkington," "Caged" & "The Revolt of Mamie Stover," (The later two filmed while Agnes was still "married" to Robert Gist) And let's not forget "Bewitched." Endora hated men:) it's all right there, for those who have eyes to see. I said we would get back to Orson, and I mean't it. Of all of her male costars, Agnes had the most chemistry with Welles. Just take a listen to The Mercury's radio version of "Dracula." Hotness itself!!! And yet by all accounts, there was noting between them. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it. So... there it is. A mosaic, a pattern of light and shadow, a mood that is/was Agnes Moorehead. A lover of women<3 and the Best Actress who ever Lived!!!!

tamela757 said...

Agreed ad infinitum! You see I've always stopped just short of pointing out the obvious because most folks are sooooo uncomfortable with the idea. I actually had someone point out once that the reason Agnes lived with Peg LaCentra was because Jack was on tour! My response was really, that is the best excuse you can come up with? Jack was no more on tour during the time that Agnes lived with Peg than a moose...he worked in a candy store at the time and that is documented in an article talking about the store being robbed. I agree whole heartedly in your view that she had no sexual chemistry with male actors with the exception of Orson I own a cd of the "Dracula" broadcast and was blown away by it...I kept thinking "How did they get this by the censors??? Was it a spur of the moment thing that just happened to be recorded??" She was beautiful and handsome all at the same time. I think she thought she was in love with Lee but her comment "Now you know how I feel towards Jack" in her postmortem letter to her sister says volumes without saying volumes. It is a very sterile comment, sanitized, and clean, even though she thought this was a private letter. I think she may have made a similar mistake with Robert Gist. She thought she loved him enough that she could outwardly make it work. I have no doubt that he wandered, philandered and generally worked the woman. He had her so convinced that she could trust him that she did. I suspicion that Paul Lynde's story about her catching her husband cheating on her and screaming "If you can have a mistress so can I" happened with Gist not Lee. My honest opinion is that Lee was an idiot, a drunk and a violent jackass. I have always struggled with the idea that she would "let" anyone beat the crap out of her without fighting back unless she was over a barrel because of some extenuating circumstance. Quint Benedetti's discription of her non chalent behavior toward her husband hitting her and cutting up her face has always seemed ridiculous to me. Who knows. Just so you know, not sure if I included this in any of my rants, but her first public role in college was as a young man who was the romantic lead. That was pre Romeo and Juliet. She was a tomboy without doubt. She played a lady and had manners out the window but she was very masculine in her behavior...again I blathered on about that at some point. I've been smacked down so many times on so many points by so many people that I have moved to the middle of the road and try to point out all facts about her so that I don't have to deal with the flack. All of your points are so valid and so well thought out. Hell, I've made most of them myself. I appreciate the comment and the thought that goes in to an excellent response!
Side note look at Debbie Reynolds and Peg LaCentra side by side...then throw in Tanya Hills...yup she had a type, definitely had a type...they all look alike. Same can't be said of her husbands..tall and dark, short, pudgy and red headed....she had no idea what she wanted when it came to men. Keep reading!!!! Keep pushing the envelope and never stope questioning!

Stephen Street said...

As per the comment that Agnes' first red haired movie was 'Magnificent Obsession', I believe both 'The Blazing Forest' and 'Those Redheads From Seattle' were in color and she had her famous red hair in them, and they proceeded 'Magnificent Obsession' if I'm not mistaken.

tamela757 said...

I stand corrected. Blazing Forest was the first color film with the new hair. Still it was released in December of 1952 so she may have colored her hair in or around July as the newspaper said. I did overlook those two but they did come out after who knows.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, I've been following your blog for years. . .I can't believe I haven't read this post sooner! Personally, I believe she preferred the company of women. I agree that she really lacked a convincing chemistry with men (sorry Agnes) It's clear in her scenes in 'The Tempest and 'Show Boat' where she is clearly reluctant to even let her male co-stars fully embrace her, much less kiss her. (I know I've read this on your blog in previous postings, Tamela, so I'm really just reiterating) Although, in candid photos, tv shows like Password and appearing with female co-stars- she shows no apprehension. In fact, her smile is always genuine and she's quite relaxed. She's not afraid to give them a pat on the hand, affectionate glance or embrace them. She even goes on to state that she would have no qualms playing the part of a lesbian (quoting from B.H's interview, if I'm not mistaken) I think she was truly convinced that the only way to uphold her image to her family and Hollywood was to marry a man. . .why she ever got involved with such a louse as Lee is beyond me *Ugh* And why, why, why would she choose Gist after that?? C'mon, I know there must have been a better runner-up! (can you tell I'm pulling out my hair right now!) I'm not trying to sway people this way or that concerning her sexuality, I'm just giving my opinion based on observations. Some of them my own, some of them from others which make me sit her going 'duh', how did I not see that before (?) She was a beautiful, complex, talented lady. I only wish that she wasn't so afraid of the crudity that is common human nature. As a bisexual woman who is still in hiding from my own family and 99 percent of my friends- my heart aches for what she must have gone through; if my instincts are correct. Heck, I even lived with my ex-girlfriend for three years in a one bedroom apartment and had to pass her off as my roommate. Why we broke up? I refused to 'come-out' and she was tired of our living room looking like a second bedroom. �� *sigh*

Tamela Thornes said...

I couldn't agree with you more and I'm so glad you noticed the "patting on Password." Almost every single female partner she was on the show Password that happened and Francine York, who played Venus in an episode of Bewitched, said she patted her hands all the time and told her how beautiful she was! Her complex nature is part of her allure!

Tamela Thornes said...

Ok....Color me stunned! Anonymous you are 100 percent right!

Anonymous said...

P.s- Has anyone ever told you, you two look extremely similar? Your family must really have strong genes! (Now I'm jealous;) haha

Post a Comment