Gay New York

Men On Film: 1949 by

It’s both funny and sad to think of a time when merely taking off your shirt was enough to excite and stir the masses of closeted gay men, but such was the nature of repression of male/male desire through the course of history. As an example, consider the October 17, 1949 issue of a small magazine called Quick and its cover story “The Birth of Beefcake,” which details the new Hollywood trend of shirtless supermen for its readers. The cover features a smiling photo of the heartthrob Alan Ladd. Inside, the cover story “Hollywood Uncovers Male Appeal” explains the concept of “beefcake”:

Beefcake is the new Hollywood name for the male equivalent of female cheesecake. Though exposure traditionally is more common with actresses, the males are allowed by censors to reveal much more—all the way down to the waist…Lately, they have been doing so en masse.

The male chest, of course, has been exposed before in films and film advertising. Frances X. Bushman showed his 25 years ago in Ben Hur, with wonderful box-office results. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Rudolph Valentino had women swooning at the sight of their heaving torsos…..

The Great Gatsby, Easy Living and Thieves’ Highway are currently and simultaneously filling theaters by displaying the chesty virtues of Alan Ladd, Victor Mature and Richard Conte on billboards and lobby posters. Though these starts actually appear only briefly in the films the way they do on the posters, the results have been the same: they’ve sold tickets. As a consequence, Hollywood now has plans for a rash of motion pictures giving lots of footage to exposed males.

The rest of the magazine features catty, semi-snarky news items, many of which have queerer than queer subject matter: a page showing Eleanor Roosevelt’s different hairstyles from 1937-1949 is the most unintentionally hilarious of the bunch—mainly because the hairstyles don’t change over the years. Fans of The Celluloid Closet will also recognize coverboy Alan Ladd as the actor whose picture hangs in Sal Mineo’s locker in Rebel Without A Cause, subtly coding Mineo’s character as gay. Though the magazine was published by a company located in Des Moines, Iowa, the editorial offices are listed as 511 Fifth Avenue (on 43rd Street), which today houses a IDB Bank on its ground floor. When I walk by, I like to imagine a brave man or group of men working behind the scenes to create a coded publication, and the other men who had their sexuality stimulated by flipping through these pages or becoming avid patrons of movies with chesty virtues of the “beefcake” pictured above.

Adam Baran


Adam Baran is a NYC-based writer/director with a passion for making films that tell queer stories in unique, risk-taking ways. After graduating in 2003 from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in Film and TV Production, Adam wrote and directed two short films, Love and Deaf (2004) and Jinx! (2007), which aired in regular rotation on Here! TV and the IFC Channel in the US, respectively. Love and Deaf was released in popular gay shorts collections on DVD in the U.S., Germany and France. In 2009, Adam wrote the daily web comedy MTV Detox for That same year, he finished the feature script Jackpot, which was selected for the 2010 Outfest Screenwriting Lab and performed as a staged reading during the festival. That script led to his being asked to write the webseries The Great Cock Hunt, which is being produced and directed by Jon Marcus (Party Monster) and executive produced by Rose Troche (The L Word) and will premiere in late 2011. Adam’s work as a writer and editor began in 2004 with contributions to the groundbreaking gay journal BUTT Magazine. He became a contributing editor in 2007, had several articles featured in the BUTT Book, and was the online editor of from 2008-2011. He has also written for V Magazine, Pin-Up, Foam and the “T Blog” for the New York Times Style Section. Adam also co-curates the monthly film series Queer/Art/Film with Keep The Lights On director Ira Sachs at the IFC Center in New York. An “essential” series according to the New Yorker, Queer/Art/Film invites queer artists to screen films that have influenced their development. Past guests include Justin Bond, Antony Hegarty, John Kelly, John Cameron Mitchell, Barbara Hammer, Kate Bornstein and Genesis P-Orridge. Adam currently lives in Brooklyn and is working on making a short film based on his feature script Jackpot and writing several new features and shorts.

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