Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood

Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood

Whether in or out of the closet, gay men and lesbians played an essential role in shaping studio-era Hollywood. Gay actors (J. Warren Kerrigan, Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson), gay directors (George Cukor, James Whale, Dorothy Arzner), and gay costume and set designers (Adrian, Travis Banton, George James Hopkins) have been among the most influential individuals in Hollywood history, literally creating the Hollywood mystique. This landmark study—based on seven years of exacting research and including unpublished memoirs, personal correspondence, oral histories, and scrapbooks—explores the gay and lesbian experience in Hollywood in the context of their times. Ranging from Hollywood’s working conditions to the rowdy character of Los Angeles’ gay underground, William J. Mann brings lover overdue attention to every aspect of this powerful creative force.

Named “Book of the Year” by InsightOut Books and one of the “Five Best Books of the Year” by The Advocate.

“Excellent and tactful…Mann doesn’t overplay his hand when it comes to ‘outing’ the past.”

  • Los Angeles Times

“A compelling, thoughtful portrait of Hollywood—and by extension, American culture.”

  • The Boston Phoenix

“An epic, a landmark…It has the makings of a miniseries.”

  • The Seattle Times

“The book of the moment… Mann’s meticulous sociocultural archeology unearths the impact of gay film industry workers on American motion pictures.”

  • Salon

“A staggering amount of research…a motherlode for future writers.”

  • The Washington Post

“Mann gives us the book we’ve all been awaiting: a readable, slightly gossipy, yet scholarly history of gays and lesbians in Hollywood. Important reading for anyone interested in the history of American film.”

  • Library Journal (starred review)

“Astute and groundbreaking…sharp, original research offers a new lens for examining the complicated, sometimes contradictory relationship between sexual activity, identity, and work.”

  • Publishers Weekly (starred review)