The Calgary Gay History Project is very cognizant of the various queer film fests that have stampeded through town in years past. Our contemporary Fairy Tales has by far the longest staying power: the 20th annual festival launches in May 2018.
Previous incarnations include The Fire I’ve Become Film Festival and repertory cinema programming at the Plaza. However, at the Glenbow Archives last week, we stumbled across the Calgary Film Society, a non-profit society which ran art film programming from 1946 – 1987, screening their international film series at the Jubilee Auditorium in their later decades.
The Calgary Film Society’s fall 1981 program, had a unique screening series called the Celluloid Closet, which they projected at the University of Calgary’s Boris Roubakine Theatre. The series only cost $12 and featured five gay films from the 1970s.
Calgary Film Society’s 1981/1982 program
1981 is relatively early for publicized gay cultural programming in the city. Consequently, the Calgary Film Society could be considered edgy in its programming. Yet, Fortune in Men’s Eyes, which had been adapted from the stage, might have been familiar to Calgary audiences then, due to its staging by the also edgy Loose Moose Theatre Company in March 1980 at the Pumphouse Theatres.
Promo Film Still from Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1971)
Posted in Gay history
Tagged bisexual, Calgary Film Society, Fairy Tales Film Festival, fire i've become, Fortune and men's eyes, gay, Glenbow, lesbian, Loose Moose, Pumphouse, queer, transgender
Like the Plaza Theatre, another cultural institution, the Loose Moose Theatre Company was an early adopter of gay content in Calgary. Founded in 1977, Loose Moose is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Back in 1980, it co-produced along with Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC), Fortune in Men’s Eyes.
Fortune in Men’s Eyes is a play set in a Canadian prison for youth and deals with society’s injustice towards gay people. Written in Canada’s Centennial Year, 1967, by John Herbert, the play shocked audiences and helped force Canadian society to acknowledge the existence and rights of homosexuals.
“Norman Nadel, reviewing the play for the New York Tribune, claimed the homosexual drama was so disgusting that the mention of someone vomiting in the prison’s off-stage toilet came like a breath of spring. Herbert Whittaker, in the Globe and Mail, called the play ‘the art of washing our dirty linen in the neighbor’s yard.'”*
Playwright John Herbert was born in Toronto, Ontario, October 13, 1926; and died in Toronto on June 22, 2001. The twelve editions of Fortune and Men’s Eyes published by Grove Press in New York have made it the most published Canadian play in history. It won the 1975 Chalmers Award for best Canadian play, and has been published in several Canadian play anthologies. MGM adapted the play for film in 1970, using a former Quebec City prison as its set.
* from the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia entry for Fortune and Men’s Eyes