Wednesday, July 09, 2008

'Chris and Don: A Love Story'

Those of you who are literarily or theatrically inclined may be most interested in this information, but there is plenty to chew on if politics and society are your topics.

Thanks to a segment on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, I have learned of a new documentary about writer Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Bachardy, who had a 33-year relationship that began when Bachardy was 18 and Isherwood was 49, ending only with Isherwood's death in 1986. Later, Bachardy began a 10-year relationship with a man 26 years his junior, but now is in a relationship ("for the first time in my life," he says) with a man almost precisely his own age. (Bachardy was born in 1934, the same year as my father.) The documentary film is called Chris and Don: A Love Story.

The summary of the interview on NPR's web site notes:

Bachardy speaks with Terry Gross about his career as an artist and his relationship with Isherwood, who penned the Berlin Stories, which served as the basis for the musical and film Cabaret.

Bachardy and Isherwood collaborated on a number of projects, and Bachardy's illustrations often appeared in Isherwood's work.

As an artist, Bachardy achieved recognition outside of his relationship with Isherwood, creating portraits of such celebrities and notables as Jack Nicholson, Mia Farrow and Dorothy Parker. His book Stars in My Eyes describes the subjects of his works and was a best-seller in Los Angeles.
The interview is wide-ranging, touching on what it was like to be openly gay in Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s, how the age difference affected (or failed to affect) the Isherwood-Bachardy partnership, how Isherwood felt compelled to adopt Bachardy legally late in life (in the absence of legal gay marriage), and Bachardy's techniques as a portrait painter. (Gross asks a lengthy series of questions about the drawings Bachardy made of Isherwood on his deathbed, and of Isherwood's corpse on the day he died. Bachardy's answers are direct but no less emotional for that.)

There is also a discussion about same-sex marriage and a brief conversational sequence about Isherwood and Bachardy's friend, actor Anthony Perkins, who rebelled against his homosexuality and who, despite years of therapy, was never able to escape it. (For his part, Bachardy says "everything wonderful in my life is the result of my being queer.")

The Fresh Air interview with Don Bachardy -- who sounds much older than someone of 73 or 74, but perhaps his voice has had these qualities for many years -- can be found here, at the NPR web site.

I recommend listening to the whole thing. There's not a dull moment anywhere in the piece. (Theatre buffs may be surprised at how negative was Isherwood's reaction to Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in the film version of Cabaret.)

IMDB has information about the new documentary film. This is a film I definitely plan to see, and I hope I can see it on a big screen rather than on television via DVD.

The "cast list" of the documentary (directed by Tina Mascara and Guido Santi, who are unknown to me) is remarkable itself, as it includes Gloria Stuart, Michael York, Leslie Caron, Jack Larson ("Jimmy Olsen" from TV's Superman), and Liza, as well as Isherwood and Bachardy.

Fresh Air also reran an interview today, originally from 1988, with the late Thomas Disch, a gay science-fiction writer who is perhaps best known for the children's story, The Brave Little Toaster. That archival interview can be found here.

(To tell the truth, I had never heard of Thomas Disch until he died. I'm sure the science-fiction aficionados among my readers will berate me for that.)

All in all, Fresh Air had a gay hour today.

Update: I have discovered that Chris and Don: A Love Story has an official web site, which includes two video extracts from the film as well as photographs and background information about Christopher Isherwood, Don Bachardy, and the filmmakers.

1 comment:

Guido said...

Rick,

This is the link to Zeitgeist Films where you can learn all the play dates of CHRIS &DON A Love Story.

http://www.zeitgeistfilms.com/film.phpdirectoryname=chrisanddon

All the best,

Guido Santi