The Killing of Sister George

killing of sister georgeSo happy I saved the lesbian classic, The Killing of Sister George to watch for the first time during my 30 days of Gay Pride film reviews. What a crazy, horrific, sexy and hopeful film it turned out to be. Ordering the DVD from Netflix, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. George and Charlie (groan on the male names for female leads) played to perfection by Beryl Reid and Suzannah York acted more like George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? most of the time – especially title character George. There are crazy parts to this film like Charlie’s doll collection and her obsession with their presence making the older women appear pedophilic. There are horrific scenes of fighting between George and Charlie and in particular a scene where Charlie screams – “we’re not married” to excuse her behavior for not being connected or committed to George. In their defense, it’s a year before Stonewall – 1968 and George is a popular soap opera star – close to 50 years old – everyone’s favorite asexual nurse on tellie. Charlie’s 20 years her junior. Their lives are filled with self-loathing and internalized homophobia and yet they live a fairly open life together considering the times and George’s celebrity. The sexy parts peak during the lesbian nightclub scene. I can only imagine women in theaters everywhere creaming over the groovy, crowded club filled with butch/femme couples dancing slow and sexy, fast and crazy for the first time ever on the big screen. Then there’s the first kiss between George and Charlie – sweet and deliberate and center framed. The sex scene between Charlie and Mercy obviously gave the film its X rating when first released. Today that scene would be a tepid R rating. Nipple sucking can be hot, but it’s certainly not x-rated. Hearing the word lesbian and dyke out of the mouth of a lesbian character must have also been shockingly exciting. I know I cheered and hooted. It’s context after all. Of course there’s self-loathing. The Boys in the Band is The Killing of Sister George‘s male compliment. Both films are full of self-loathing. Yet George ends the film with a definite kernel of hope. She is nothing if not a survivor. She may be a raging drunk, but she manages to take care of herself and do what she needs to do to survive. I loved The Killing of Sister George. I’m sure I wouldn’t have loved it as much in my youth. Like The Boys in the Band, these stereotypes were too close to the generation before me and I wanted a happier, more self-loving group of gay people to represent me. With time and distance however, I can see how films like these broke boundaries and paved the way for kinder, more authentic versions of our lives written and created by lesbians and gay men. In 2015, The Killing of Sister George rocked my world. I laughed and cheered at the end. 5 out of 5 for this historical, classic 60’s drama.

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