Category Archives: Gay history

Purple Noon on Sunday

A film I discovered at the Pacific Cinematheque last year has haunted me ever since. Purple Noon (1960), directed by René Clément, is a lush, colourful adaptation of queer author Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 crime thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley. 

Purple Noon One

Maurice Ronet and Alain Delon in Purple Noon

Purple Noon (1960) sizzles with an understated homoerotic subtext at a time when being overtly gay landed you in jail. The film is notable both for its delicious cinematography and for launching the career of French actor, Alain Delon, whose terrible beauty caused international audiences to swoon – of all genders!

The role of Tom Ripley is better known to contemporary audiences from Matt Damon’s 1999 portrayal. However, Alain Delon is mesmerizing as the duplicitous American charmer in Rome on a mission to bring his privileged, devil-may-care acquaintance Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) back to the United States. What initially seems a carefree tale of friendship soon morphs into a thrilling saga of seduction, identity theft, and murder.

Calgary Cinematheque invites everyone to a free screening of Purple Noon at the Central Library this Sunday with a short introductory lecture from the Calgary Gay History Project. Get out of the winter YYC, and escape to a hot Italian summer this Sunday afternoon!


Bizarre Love Triangle with Marie Laforêt – from Purple Noon



It Gets Louder: YYC’s Proud Theatre History

{Kevin is on a book tour currently in Toronto and Ottawa – check out dates/times: here!}

I was fortunate to be invited to the opening night of The Louder We Get. The musical is Theatre Calgary’s exploration of a true story, which was precedent-setting for the LGBTQ2 human rights struggle in Canada. The Louder We Get portrays the 2002 battle between high school student Marc Hall and the Durham Catholic School Board. The drama inherent in the story is whether Marc will be able to take his boyfriend to prom. His legal case made Canadian and international headlines – and he won – making for a triumphant ending. The long-standing ovation and visibly moved audience at opening night augers well for a long-life for The Louder We Get: go see it!

Louder Cast

The artists of The Louder We Get celebrating on Opening Night

Calgary’s theatre community has been brave historically in showcasing gay stories, even when there was public hostility to their staging. Furthermore, the theatre was one of the earliest safe places for gay people to find work and also be open about their lives. For example, Ken McBane, a Theatre Calgary set designer was one of the five founders of Calgary’s Club Carousel in 1970. It was Ken who came up with the circus-themed look of the Club, and the Carousel was the site of many performances of musicals, plays, and stage-nights.

Roger Perkins

A “Stage Night” at Club Carousel circa 1972

The Loose Moose Theatre Company, founded in 1977, was an early adopter of gay content in Calgary. In March 1980, it co-produced with Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC), Fortune and Men’s Eyes at the Pumphouse Theatre.

Fortune and Men’s Eyes is a play set in a Canadian prison for youth and deals with society’s injustice towards gay people. Written in Canada’s Centennial Year, 1967, by John Herbert, the play shocked audiences and helped force Canadian society to acknowledge the existence and rights of homosexuals.

In 1991, Theatre Calgary presented a highly lauded production of playwright David Stevens’ The Sum of Us. Described as frank, funny and touching, the play explored the relationship between a widowed father and his gay son, set in a working-class suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Theatre Calgary secured impressive talent for their production. Gordon Pinsent played the widower Harry, and Ted Atherton, his son Jeff. Theatre director Eric Steiner was engaged to bring The Sum of Us to the Canadian stage. Steiner, who came to Calgary, via Stratford, Chicago and Toronto had worked with Theatre Calgary before, directing The Normal Heart in 1986, one of the first plays about AIDS ever presented in the city.

Playwright Stevens was on the record that the Theatre Calgary production was the finest his play had been given. And Calgary audiences liked it too; the show tripled its expected revenues at the box office. Theatre Calgary then leveraged its success and opened the play in Toronto that November at the Bathurst Street Theatre for an open-ended commercial run.

The gay play that attracted the most controversy in Calgary was Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP) staging of Angels in America in 1996. Before even opening, the play attracted a wagonload of controversy. “Why are taxpayers still having to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to a company that stages a self-indulgent production many feel is abhorrent? It is simply not right,” expressed the Calgary Sun.

Calgary-Shaw Tory MLA Jon Havelock suggested that plays offending community standards should not receive public funding. He added, “It seems to me that in some instances people confuse sexual expression with artistic expression.” Calgary-Fish Creek Tory MLA Heather Forsyth called Angels obscene and about ATP said: “If they can’t come up with better shows than this, maybe they shouldn’t be getting funding.”

There were heartfelt published defenses of Angels in America too. A well-known educator, Dariel Bateman, wrote a guest column in the Calgary Herald. She described the play as: “a glorious opportunity to stare down despair, to make sense of things, as we must.”

Ultimately, ATP found themselves rewarded. The controversy put extra bums in seats and attracted almost $50,000 in individual “Angels Consortium” donations. The play doubled expected ticket revenues and was sold out in its final weeks—setting audience records for the company.


Our Past Matters – On the Road!

Kevin Allen is heading out in February on the first leg of a national book tour, bringing Calgary’s gay history to a broader audience. We know not every Canadian might be as interested in Calgary as we are, but we are hoping to change that – as well as seed LGBTQ2 community history projects wherever we go! We are looking forward to meeting readers and getting some archival research for the Calgary Gay History Project done. This journey is to three cities: Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa, please spread the word if you have friends or family there!

Monday, February 3rd, at 7 PM, in Edmonton: Book Launch at Audrey’s Books, 10702 Jasper Ave.

Monday, February 10th, at 6 PM, in Toronto: Guest Lecture at The ArQuives (formerly the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives) at 34 Isabella Street. “The most publicized homosexual in history:” the Life of Everett Klippert. Kevin Allen explores the life of Canada’s gay rights anti-hero, whose court case led to the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969.

Tuesday, February 11th, at 6 PM, in Toronto: Book Launch at Glad Day, 499 Church Street.

Thursday, February 13, at 6 PM, in Ottawa, Book launch at the Westin Hotel, hosted by the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity.

OPM at Glenbow

Our Past Matters at the Glenbow Museum Gift Shop in Calgary.

The Calgary Gay History Project gratefully acknowledges that this tour has been made possible with support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.