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  • Writer's picturePaul Burston

Something About Harry

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

My love affair with Harry Hamlin began in 1981 with ‘Clash of the Titans’. Maggie Smith was in it. So was Laurence Olivier. There were gods, monsters, a winged horse and a mechanical owl who came on like an ornithological version of R2D2 from ‘Star Wars’.

But I only had eyes for Harry.

I’d had crushes before. The dark-haired guy from the TV series ‘Planet of the Apes’. The Latin cop from ‘CHIPS’. But they were simply that – crushes.

And then along came Harry. That curly hair! Those luscious lips! That little loin cloth! When he wasn’t fighting gorgons or making sense of mechanical owls, Harry spent much of the film flashing his beefy thighs and offering us a glimpse of his nipples. And pouting. A lot. I was smitten.

A year later in 1982, he was back playing a gay man in ‘Making Love’, often cited as the first major Hollywood film to tackle the ‘difficult’ subject of homosexuality. Kate Jackson from ‘Charlie’s Angels’ was in it. So was Michael Ontkean.

But I only had eyes for Harry.

In ‘Making Love’, Harry plays a gay writer called Bart (yay!), who seduces Kate’s husband (boo!) and comes out with lines like: “If it feels good, do it. You don’t get any points for playing by the rules.” The gay bar scenes feel authentic, the romance between the two male leads simmers with sexual tension and the love scenes are undeniably hot for the time.

The opening credits warned viewers that “‘Making Love’ deals openly and candidly with a delicate issue. It is not sexually explicit. But it may be too strong for some people’.

Interviewed in ‘The Celluloid Closet’, the documentary based on Vito Russo’s landmark book about homosexuality in the movies, Harry admitted that his agents warned him against the taking role. “Hollywood was pretty much of a cowboy town”, he said. “And a straight cowboy town”. This was a long time before Hollywood gave us gay cowboys in ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

He also said he had some reservations and possibly some homophobia of his own to overcome. “If I saw an actor playing a gay role, I’d question it. I’d go, ‘wow, is he gay?’ And why I do that I don’t know. But then I’ll stop myself and say, ‘Hey that’s ridiculous. You’ve been there. You’ve done that’”.

You have indeed, Harry. And while ‘Making Love’ may not be strong enough for some people, it’s a landmark film for several reasons. Hamlin was hot property at the time, having just starred in ‘Titans’. And just as significantly, nobody died. There are no gay victims in ‘Making Love’. It’s a far cry from what came before – and after.

The film was released in 1982, just as AIDS was beginning to make headlines. It would be a long time before mainstream Hollywood went near the ‘delicate issue’ of male homosexuality again, with ‘Philadelphia’.

But that’s another story.

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