Friday, May 24, 2024

Give Jeffrey Schwarz an Oscar already

My conversation with filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz was like talking to an old friend. We swapped stories on movies and gay icons and I find out more about his latest movie, Boulevard!

The only difference is Schwarz has won 23 awards for filmmaking and I am just an awestruck fan. Schwarz talked to me about his latest movie Boulevard! A Hollywood Story, which is one of the films that has won him awards and is currently available on most streaming channels to buy or rent. Gay theatre nerds may think they know everything there is about Boulevard as its subject is the movie Sunset Boulevard, which is an essential among gay film viewing and also lead to a Broadway musical. Think again.

Schwarz’ Boulevard offers even more insight into this fascinating story, which is why I love his movies so much – they always inform and entertain and provide more information about their subjects than we’d expect. 

Who knew that the star of the movie, Gloria Swanson, tried to make a musical on Sunset Boulevard way back in the 1950s after she had a return to the cinema and great success including an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for the movie version. This Boulevard shows all of the efforts Swanson put into trying to bring the musical to the stage, but even juicer, the fact she lusted after one of the two writers of the show who obviously was gay and partnered to his writing partner. 

Schwarz says that back in this time period, gay people were definitely closeted. Those in the know were aware of the relationship between the musical’s two writers and perhaps one of them,  Richard Stapley, “used his charms and good looks to get ahead in the industry” and that “Swanson likely flirted with him,” which he used to his benefit. In his research, Schwarz found some bootleg copies of some songs and “heard bits and pieces” which also helped inspire him to make this documentary. Schwarz really does do a deep dive into all of his topics to make his movies more interesting and informative. Some of his movies like I Am Divine and Tab Hunter Confidential have such interesting subjects that filmgoers levitate towards them in a thirst to learn more.

Then he’s shone the light on lesser-known people who still have a cult following and interesting stories to be told. One favorite of mine is The Fabulous Allan Carr who made hits with the movie Grease and the musical La Cage aux Folles but suffered with the flop of Can’t Stop the Music, now a cult classic. You would think that Schwarz is always on the search for his next movie but he says, “Topics come to me for one reason or another.” He adds sometimes he reads something that he gets obsessed with and thinks it would be a good movie. He couldn’t or wouldn’t say if he had a favorite of his own movies or even a favorite subject but he does admit that Vito is closest to his heart. “I remember when I came out and you had to go to the ‘special section’ of the library or bookstore to learn about gay culture,” he says. 

Then he stumbled upon Vito Russo’s book The Celluloid Closet and learned so much about gay movie history. One of Schwarz’ current projects and hopefully his release is Goddess: The Fall and Rise of Showgirls, about the now-cult classic film that, at the time, had won the most Razzie Awards for worst film and more. Schwarz movies usually don’t get submitted for Oscar consideration. We joked that wouldn’t it be funny if Goddess had a qualifying Oscar theatrical run when it comes out and he wins an Oscar for Best Documentary for what once was considered Worst Movie (by many but not the gays). 

Stranger things have happened. Seek out Boulevard and Schwarz’ other amazing works on your streaming channels.

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Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 157 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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