Drag in the Cinema — The Mid ’60s

| Nov 26, 2018
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The Mid-Sixties: Mods and Spies

Rose Alba as Colonel Jacques Bouvar in the opening of Thunderball. The male actor doesn’t step in till the fight starts.

Two events in the mid-sixties signaled a change in life: The Beatles and James Bond.

The Beatles because long hair wasn’t just for girls anymore (and how about the heels on those Beatle-boots). And James Bond, because he brought a new kind of sexuality to movies. Though, as far I know, The Beatles never crossdressed and neither did James Bond (though there were a few brief drag moments in a couple of James Bond movies), it was the new openness they provided, which allowed for more drag on screen.

Spy films were an extremely fertile ground for all sorts of characters in drag in the cinema in the sixties. Though Mr. Bond hit American screens in 1962 with Dr. No, it wasn’t until 1964’s Goldfinger that Bond really took off and with him the whole spy genre.

Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World (1965) features a drag scene right at the beginning where a group of tourists are surprised when a woman turns out to be a man in drag (though not star Tom Adams.)

Horst Bucholz in hairy arm drag.

That Man in Istanbul (1965) featured Horst Bucholz as a reluctant spy. In one scene he is forced to leave a woman’s bath house complete with hat (no wig), dress, and shapely legs in heels.

One that may be a bit harder to catch is an obscure item called Password: Kill Agent Gordon. (1966) with Roger Browne and Helga Line. In this typical spy drama, the villain is a woman in a wheelchair. At least that’s what we think until the final scene when in disgust she rubs her lipstick off and reveals herself to be a man.

Besides Mr. Bond, the other big influence was The Beatles, though they were nowhere in sight in the next two films. The music movement of the mid-sixties did inspire them.

Hickman and Avalon in Ski Party.

Beach Ball (1965) was more inspired by Frankie and Annette than the Beatles but it came nowhere close to their films. The sole purpose for tuning into this film is the near final scene in which stars Edd “Kookie” Byrnes and Aron Kincaid get into drag for a girls’ rock ‘n roll band.

Better is the movie Ski Party (also 1965) this one does star Frankie Avalon (but no Annette) in kind of a Beach Party on the ski slopes, as Frankie and Dwayne Hickman masquerade as girls in order to find out what girls are all about. The downside is that they spend most of the time in ski-clothes, so we never really get so see the kind of drag we like! However, look for a scene near the end of the film where Hickman goes out a window in skirt and heels in order to get away from Aron Kincaid (who was in the previously mentioned film) who thinks he is a real girl!

Next time we’ll look at more films from the mid to late sixties. As spies get more in control and drag in comedy seems to be king (er, make that queen!)

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