Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Harry Hamlin and Michael Ontkean
MAKING LOVE (1982). Director: Arthur Hiller.

A successful oncologist, Zach (Micheal Ontkean) seems to be happily married to his wife and best friend, Claire (Kate Jackson) -- they both love Gilbert and Sullivan, and poet Rupert Brooke --  but all of his life he's been fighting his attraction to men. He is less interested in having a very active sex life as he is in having a romantic, lifetime relationship with another man, and falls (rather quickly) for a foot-loose writer named Bart (Harry Hamlin of Clash of the Titans), who is much more comfortable with his sexuality. As Zach's marriage to Claire approaches its end, will Bart turn out to be the man that Zach's been hoping to find? Making Love, released by Twentieth Century-Fox, was the first major Hollywood film on homosexuality, and was heavily promoted as well. [That Certain Summer tackled the subject on television ten years earlier.] Although it could be argued that they give telefilm-type performances, the three leads are all good, and the film is interesting, with a moving conclusion. The casting of Kate Jackson as the very likable Claire was a smart move. Hamlin at times tries too hard to play it "gay" but Ontkean is fine, although the important sequences when he finally comes out to Claire are a bit awkward in both scripting and performance. Whatever its flaws, Making Love is to be commended for being one of the first films in which gay characters were neither maniacs nor corpses. Wendy Hiller [The Cat and the Canary] plays Winnie, an elderly friend of Zach and Claire's. A particularly charming scene has Zach and Claire entering a singing contest and being really bad just to spare a friendly young lady who was booed from getting the booby prize. Lovely score by Leonard Rosenman.

Verdict: Intelligent if imperfect gay love story -- of sorts. ***.


angelman66 said...

I went and saw this in the theater when I was 15 years old...was thrilled by the kiss between these two good looking and obviously masculine men. I have seen it many times since and find something new to love...Kate Jackson underplays beautifully and I love the scene where they sing Gilbert & Sullivan in the rowdy bar. I also enjoy the great Wendy Hiller in one of her last roles. This certainly was a groundbreaking moment in film...mainstream cinema didn't really tackle this subject head-on until Brokeback Mountain--though independent and European film had been dealing with homosexuality for decades. Took us American puritans a long time to catch up.

William said...

You can say that again! Yes, the scene when they sing in the bar establishes both of them as nice people -- who should have stayed BFFs instead of getting married. I was in my twenties or thereabouts and also saw it in the theater and liked it -- like you say, American movies had really not done anything like it before. If I recall it got every mixed reviews even from the gay press.