Cairo’s homosexuality posed one of the biggest obstacles to securing overall approval of the picture. Hammett didn’t mince words in the novel. “This guy is queer,” says Sam Spade’s secretary as she hands him an engraved card bearing his name - Mr Joel Cairo. He speaks in a “high-pitched thin voice,” carries “gaily colored silk handkerchiefs fragrant of chypre,” and walks in “mincing, bobbing steps.” … Hal Wallis realised that American audiences - not to mention the Hays Office - were not ready for a candid look at homosexuality, which traditionally drew laughs and jeers out front.
After seeing Lorre’s first day’s work, Wallis dashed off a memo to Huston: “Don’t try and get a nancy quality into him, because if you do we will have trouble with the picture.” Huston bent to Breen’s will. In the scene, Effie presents Cairo’s calling card to a bemused Spade, who holds it to his nose.
“Gardenia,” says Effie.
“Quick, darling, in with him,” replies Spade.
The rest Huston left to Lorre’s subtlety and the viewer’s imagination.
The svelte 137-pound Lorre who stepped before the camera seemed younger, fitter, swifter. More was asked of him and he asked more of himself. The role was the best of its kind to come his way in years and Lorre knew it.
“I’d often shoot a scene with Peter and find it quite satisfactory, nothing more,” recalled Huston -
But then I would see it on the screen in rushes and discover it to be far better than what I had perceived on the set. Some subtlety of expression was seen by the camera and recorded by the microphone that the naked eye and ear did not get. He’d be doing little things that the camera close on him would pick up that standing a few feet away you wouldn’t see. It was underplaying; it was a play that you would see if you were close to him, as a close-up, as a camera is close. Things would flicker there and burn up slightly, like a lamp, and then dim down, and come on again. You’re watching something as if it were in motion.
from The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre -Stephen D Youngkin
“I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.” ― John Green, Looking for Alaska
But I don’t just love him, I need him. Not in some desperate “I can’t live without you” kind of way, but in the sense where I feel like a better person when I’m with him. I think that’s what healthy love is: it’s not when you complete the other person, it’s when you help that person feel complete with themselves.
The books were designed to boost morale but perhaps also record the British way of life in case the Germans completed their European campaign by successfully crossing the English Channel. The books were slim volumes with distinctive elegant covers, but it was the star-studded array of authors that made the series really special.
George Orwell wrote about the British people, Cecil Beaton wrote about English photography, the great poet and printer Francis Meynell wrote about English books, John Betjeman (who penned the immortal line” Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough” in 1937) wrote about cities and towns, Graham Greene wrote about dramatists, the doyen of sports journalists Neville Cardus wrote about cricket and Edith Sitwell wrote about women. Some of the authors have faded in obscurity but they were all experts in their field during those dark days of World War II.
A wide variety of subjects were covered from battlefields to boxing, clocks to mountaineering, butterflies to farm animals, and from waterways and canals to maps and map-makers. In all, there were were 132 titles. The books also covered the Commonwealth – John Buchan’s wife, Lady Tweedsmuir wrote about Canada while Ngaio Marsh and R M Burdon wrote about New Zealand.
What’s been the response from public high and middle school libraries? “Librarians are rock stars. And I receive so many emails from LGBTQ+ kids saying how much they love reading a snarky gay teen who doesn’t hate himself. He just hates the world, ha ha.“
The Great American Whatever evokes the books of Beverly Clearly and John Knowles’s A Separate Peace — was that intentional? “Maybe subconsciously. I definitely pulled some middle-schooler all-nighters reading Beverly Cleary under the covers (and in the closet). And I remember having the biggest crush on the guy in the sweater on the cover of A Separate Peace. And then somebody revealed that the other guy was behind him hidden in the tree and I gay-gasped. But, yeah, I think a lot of YA fiction stands on the shoulder of the books that cover before it.“