Classic Hollywood may have been a gay old place, but most homosexual actors were forced to hide their true orientation for fear of career suicide. While that’s tragic enough, it’s also sad that these handsome men were often groomed to within an inch of their lives by the studio system.
Considered by many to be Hollywood’s most classically handsome actor, Newman ascended to stardom with his searing portrayal of closeted Brick in 1958′s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He also scored major gay cred by trying for years to film Patricia Nell Warren’s heartbreaking novel The Front Runner, in which he hoped to play the gay track coach.
He will eternally be known as the King of Hollywood. The rumor that he had gay director George Cukor fired from Gone With The Wind because he knew the truth about Gable’s hustler past has become tinsel town legend.
The archetypal Hollywood bad boy. The homoeroticism in his scenes with Sal Mineo in the seminal drama Rebel Without A Cause is off the charts. Plus, Dean was a kept and, according to some, very naughty boy in the years before he achieved stardom.
Best-known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of stalwart Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, there was nothing overtly gay about Peck but the sensitivity he brought to his characters continues to keep us enthralled. A respected humanitarian, Peck would have likely been an ally for LGBT equality.
A laconic man’s man, Eastwood directed the gay-themed Midnight in the Garden of Evil. The 83-year-old icon was among 80 conservative notables who signed a ”friend of the court” brief, filed with the United States Supreme Court, arguing in favor of federal marriage equality.
Sorry Fred Astaire, Gene gets our vote for Hollywood’s greatest dancer. I mean, take a look at how he filled out those sailor pants in On The Town. Kelly’s gayest cred comes with directing the Barbra Streisand behemoth musical Hello Dolly! and his wistful turn in the Olivia Newton-John vehicle Xanadu.
Considered by his peers as the greatest actor of the 20th century, Olivier was rumored to have had a sexual liaison with comic actor Danny Kaye, was close friends with gay icons such as John Gielgud and Noel Coward, plus he was part of one of classic Hollywood’s most homoerotic scenes when he bathed with Tony Curtis in Spartacus.
Whether you’re gay or straight, you probably swooned over Redford’s romantic leading man turn as Hubbell Gardner in The Way We Were. Props to him for playing a closeted actor in Inside Daisy Clover in 1965, at a time when playing gay was career suicide.
The man who changed movie acting forever played a repressed gay military instructor in 1967′s Reflections in a Golden Eye. Rumors of same-sex liaisons followed Brando throughout his swift rise to stardom, particularly due to his close friendship with actor Wally Cox and this notorious photo.
Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Valentino’s sexual orientation was always suspect. He’s rumored to have had a clandestine affair with “sexual renegade” Samuel Steward and there are unsubstantiated claims he had an affair with fellow silent star Ramon Navarro, whom he reportedly gifted with an art deco dildo.
Longtime roommate of handsome actor Randolph Scott, the versatile leading man was frequently dogged by rumors he was bisexual. When comic Chevy Chase joked that Grant was gay, he sued for slander.
In a nutshell, Clift was the tortured gay patron saint of classic Hollywood. Although he had affairs with women, Clift’s inability to live openly undoubtedly led to his addictions and, ultimately, his early demise.