Inside Hollywood’s first gay bar: Call Her Savage (1932)
This scene from Clara Bow’s 1932 comeback movie was the first of its kind (that is, the first Hollywood film to depict what is clearly a gay bar complete with same sex couples) and would be the last for the next 30 years until Otto Preminger’s 1962 Advise and Consent. In this scene heiress Nasa Springer (Bow) has asked Jay Randall (Anthony Jowitt) to show her around New York. Their detour to the above bar is fascinating both as a contemporary recreation and for the lack of snide remark or comment of any kind it elicits from Bow, her beau, director John Francis Dillon, or writers Edwin J Burke and Tiffany Thayer. Neither the bar nor its patrons require either ridicule or explanation, they simply exist. There are several rather seedy scenes in this movie but this is certainly not one. In that respect Call Her Savage stands in stark opposition to 1962′s Advise and Consent where the infamous gay bar scene is essentially a way of illustrating the corruption and general seaminess of certain characters, gay bar scenes thus functioning as a kind ‘eye into the underworld’ for several decades following. I should point out for the sake of fairness that Savage is quite an un-PC film by today’s standards. But it is revealing of Pre-Code era filmmaking that miscegenation is more taboo and elicits a greater need for censure and explanation than either homosexuality or female promiscuity.
Bow and Jowitt aside, all actors in these scenes are uncredited extras, including the very good dancing waiters.