Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Norman Is That You

If I were Norman I would have never answered the intercom when my father turned up unexpectedly on my door step at 7 am, especially if my boyfriend was still tucked up in bed. Even more so when letting father in meant pushing boyfriend out.  But these were very different times, and Norman let his dad in.
Norman’s father had come to visit because his wife had run off with this brother and is now shacked up in a motel in Mexico.  However that pales in comparison when he inadvertently drags his only son out of the closet, and despite his best efforts ….. he hires a happy hooker …. he can’t turn him straight.

This rather oddball of a movie was made back in 1975 when there were very few films even mentioning the ‘H’ word let alone one being all about two men living together as a couple. And just to push the boat out even more, Norman is an African American and his boyfriend is a flaming little white boy. It’s a comedy which means its OK that its about gay people and their homophobic parents as long as they all stick to being exaggerated stereotypes … and they really do right up to the final credits.

The whole reason the movie ever got green-lit in the first place was that it was a vehicle for Redd Foxx, the star of TV’s ‘Sanford & Sons’, who was trying to find success on the big screen. He is wonderfully funny in this with his impeccable delivery of some great one-liners (and some pretty lame ones too).   Strangely enough the movie was based on a Broadway Play that ran for a total of 12 performances that was all about a Jewish family!  Go figure.
Norman’s mother who didn’t appear until almost the end, was played by the normally great Pearl Bailey, who sadly added little to the movie.
It all has a certain charm as a period piece  … the  respected gay film critic Vito Russo called it ‘the first  pro-gay fag joke’ …. but there were some really odd elements that stopped the movie being more enjoyable.  There was for example zero chemistry between Norman and his boyfriend, and for some inexplicable reason, the director found it necessary to include the completely annoying Waylan Flowers and Madam as the next door neighbors.
Sadly for Redd Foxx he never became a movie star, but interestingly enough others in the cast did go on to bigger and better things.  Ex UCLA basketball player Michael Warren (Norman) went on to star in ‘Hill Street Blues’, and Dennis Dugan (Boyfriend) became a successful movie director whose resume includes ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry’.
I came across this movie simply because the IFC in NY put on a special performance as part of their Queer Film Series but happily the DVD is also available at Amazon VOD.  If you share my penchant for early gay cinema, you will not want to miss this one.


Posted by queerguru  at  22:53

Genres:  classic, rom-com

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