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First Kiss

Cole Matthews

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First Kiss

 

Imagine this:

 

You are seated with your fiancée in a movie theater in the late 1920’s. Your arm is around her but your eyes are drawn to the man sitting a few seats away. You’ve had these feelings your whole life, but you can’t act on them. It’s illegal. It’s immoral.

 

It’s wrong.

 

You played around with your best friend as a kid. Those feelings evoked a response that aroused you like no girl ever had. The movie is about to begin. It’s a story set a few years ago during The Great War.

 

Not too far away, there is a woman sitting with her husband. His hand lies possessively over hers. She’s thinking about last night. She feels guilty because it never should have gone that far. But her best friend’s kisses were so much sweeter than her husband’s. Why? It wasn’t the right thing for a woman to do with another woman, but the temptation was too great.

 

The screen starts to flicker in the silence of the theater. The organ and a couple of other instruments start playing as the opening credits roll.

 

It’s the acclaimed movie “Wings” that everyone has been talking about. In the starring role is “The It Girl” Clara Bow.

 

The movie has nudity. It’s shocking how they show soldiers getting physicals with flashes of the male rear end and Clara Bow’s naked breasts make a split second appearance.

 

What really strikes you and the woman with equally as impure thoughts, is a kiss between two men. It’s not a simple peck on the lips. It lingers as one best friend says goodbye to the other. While silent films are more expressive than sound pictures would be, it is powerful. This depicts two men who loved each other dearly saying farewell. From http://www.filmsite.org/sexinfilms3.html

 

Handsome young soldier John "Jack" Powell (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) placed a lingering fraternal kiss on the mouth of his dying friend David Armstrong (Richard Arlen), with the title card reading:

"You - you know there is nothing in the world that means so much to me as your friendship" followed by: "I knew it - - all the time - - "

 

The movie “Wings” isn’t an art or foreign film. This picture won the Academy Award for “Best Production.” It was a long running movie that had millions of viewers. The Digital Fix explains it like this:

 

“Wings was a huge hit, running for over two years at its first engagement cinemas. In some venues it showed as a Magnascope presentation: a process where some sequences of the film was projected on a considerably larger screen, rather like IMAX except without the large-format film stock. It helped that Charles Lindbergh's successful transatlantic flight had fuelled a popular interest in aviation, so this film undoubtedly tapped into a popular mood. Sadly though, the coming of sound, later the same year, rendered silent films like this obsolete in the eyes of many studios…”

 

The context of the film doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact the two men were battling over the heart of Clara Bow’s character. What is significant is the display of these two men’s affection for one another in such a poignant way. How would you feel seeing that? What would your thoughts and emotions be after watching it on the screen? At this point in history, there were no places for men or women to meet each other. This scene sparks hope and promise I think. It may not strictly be a moment in gay history, but I believe it was one that may have lit a fire in some hearts.

 

Read more: http://film.thedigitalfix.com/content/id/77369/wings-masters-of-cinema.html#ixzz3AZcIqe9r

 

If you’d like to watch the scene of the two men saying goodbye, it can be found here:

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In my opinion—the context of the kiss does matter. It would be very hard to view this kiss as meaning anything beyond how it was meant to be viewed. The kiss itself was not on the lips—but on the corner of the mouth—which removes any sexual overtone. It is an emotional display of affection. In this case, for a dying friend— In a silent film— In which exaggerated emotional expression is de rigueur. To see this as somehow more than it is meant to portray . . . Is a bit of a stretch.

 

As Gary Couzens writes in his review of the movie: "It is not hard to read

. . . as a coded tragic gay love story, and you can do the same with Wings, though how much this is intended, and how much 1927's audience would have picked up on it, is open to conjecture."

 

I think—those that want to find something . . . will. But they very well may not be correct in their interpretation.

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You are very right except the symbolism to the viewer desperately looking for affirmation of his or her feelings. We tend to "find" things to have personal meaning. I realize it's not a homoerotic or homoromantic moment in an objective sense of history. But it's art interpreted by the viewer to derive meaning. To a man with gay feelings, I think this would become homoromantic. That's the premise of my thesis at least.

 

Thanks for the careful and close critique. I love this stuff! Ron, you're the best! :)

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