Thursday, May 03, 2018

Today in 1979, 'Bent' Premiered In London's West End Starring Ian McKellen

Bent, a play by Martin Sherman, premiered today, May 3, in 1979, at London's Royal Court Theatre. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, and takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives.

The title of the play refers to the slang word "bent" used in some European countries to refer to homosexuals. When the play was first performed, there was only a trickle of historical research or even awareness about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. In some regards, the play helped increase that historical research and education in the 1980s and 1990s.

The play starred Ian McKellen in its original 1979 West End production, and Richard Gere in its original 1980 Broadway production. In 1989, Sean Mathias directed a revival of the play, performed as a one-night benefit for Stonewall, featuring Ian McKellen, Richard E Grant, Ian Charleson, and Ralph Fiennes. After receiving critical acclaim, Mathias directed a full run in 1990, with Ian McKellen, Paul Rhys, and Christopher Eccleston.

In 1997, Martin Sherman adapted Bent into a film of the same name, which was directed by Sean Mathias.

The story is about Max, a promiscuous gay man in 1930s Berlin, who is at odds with his wealthy family because of his homosexuality. One evening, much to the resentment of his boyfriend Rudy, he brings home a handsome Sturmabteilung man. Unfortunately, it is the night that Hitler orders the assassination of the upper echelon of the Sturmabteilung corps, to consolidate his power. The Sturmabteilung man is discovered and killed by SS men in Max and Rudy's apartment, and the two have to flee Berlin.

Max's uncle Freddie, who is also gay, but lives a more discreet life with rent boys to satisfy his desires, has organized new papers for Max to flee to France where homosexuality is legal, but Max refuses to leave his naïve boyfriend behind. As a result, Max and Rudy are found and arrested by the Gestapo and put on a train headed for Dachau concentration camp.


Sooo-this-is-me said...

I must try to find that film, thanks for bringing it to my attention. I wonder if Richard Gere being in that film has something to do with the homophobic hate that has been targeted towards him all these years?

MarkfromMaine said...

Richard Here wasn't in the film, but was in the Broadway production.

MarkfromMaine said...

Richard GERE I meant

Raybeard said...

I saw that original London production with McKellan. There was a bit of hoo-ha in the tabloid press (where else?) at the time that such a play should be allowed to be performed at all - precisely the same attitude that the Nazis themselves would have taken! But this was, after all, the late 70s when there was a growing backlash against increasing pro-gay militancy where patience had been running thin for its tortoise-slow progress.
I thought the stage version was harder-hitting than the film - though at least the latter had the brief novelty of Mick Jagger in drag!