Fifty years ago, Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy scandalized Hollywood. People were shocked because they were out before it was cool to be out. They went to Hollywood parties as a gay couple when every gay and lesbian actor was deep in the closet. And they stayed together until death separated them.
The rusty daggers came out for another reason, too: Chris was 30 years older than Don who was 16 years old when they first met and 18 when the relationship began. It is only in hindsight that this becomes o.k. because in “Chris & Don” we learn that Isherwood’s intentions were honorable and the emotional bond between the men genuine. The couple was friends with Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Igor Stravinsky, Somerset Maugham. They were out when Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter were deep in the closet and allowed themselves to be manipulated into straight dates and marriages by the Hollywood PR machine.
This film is unlike any other about gay relationships. It will make you smile. Then you'll reach for a tissue to dab away at the tears of recognition that only couples - straight or gay - can fully appreciate. Chris & Don is a keeper because it documents what might otherwise been lost to gay history: a loving relationship from a time when such things never happened publicly. Thank goodness that Bachardy, now in his 70's, lived to help put their relationship on film.
You can rent it from Netflix, or you can buy it from Zeitgeist Films. Here is the trailer from YouTube, and this Zeitgeist Page links to a HD version.
Cabaret was Christopher Isherwoods's best known work and it had a long evolution. It started first as the book, Berlin Stories and then received its first dramatization as the play I Am A Camera which gave the Catholic Church and its "Legion of Decency" apoplexy.
It then was adapted into a Broadway musical, the 1966 Kander and Ebb Cabaret. Finally it was made into the 1972 film with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York.
Seeing this film added a great deal to my appreciation of gay history.