Male Beauty: Postwar Masculinity in Theater, Film, and Physique Magazines
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Explores how a younger and more sensitive form of masculinity emerged in the United States after World War II.
In the decades that followed World War II, Americans searched for and often founds signs of a new masculinity that was younger, sensitive, and sexually ambivalent. Male Beauty examines the theater, film, and magazines of the time in order to illuminate how each one put forward a version of male gendering that deliberately contrasted, and often clashed with, previous constructs. This new postwar masculinity was in large part a product of the war itself. The need to include those males who fought the war as men—many of whom were far younger than what traditional male gender definitions would accept as “manly”—extended the range of what could and should be thought of as masculine. Kenneth Krauss adds to this analysis one of the first in-depth examinations of how males who were sexually attracted to other males discovered this emerging concept of manliness via physique magazines.
“The transformation of how masculinity was presented and perceived after World War II is at the forefront of analysis in Male Beauty. This definition of what constituted the look and appeal of the male gender broadened to include a younger and more sensitive side of manhood. In a scholarly and personable way, Krauss documents the prime examples of this transition through the early 1960s with over 130 photos.” — RAGE Monthly
be either male or female and . . . each gender is given characteristics and attributes” (139). This notion of two complementary genders—a binary—is pervasive. So is the idea that gender is innate, essential, something with which men and women are naturally born. Thus, the figure of what many would call a “masculine man” may be construed, according to Giannino Malossi, as “radiating the confidence that comes from an unexamined relationship with one’s own gender” (24). Despite common belief, over
rigid limits that had defined personal sexuality no longer applied? In other words, Clift’s identity was Clift’s identity: Trying to claim who and what he was as one thing or another, defeats any investigation of what sexuality—or for that matter, identity—can be. Bosworth seems to agree with Brooks, that his Monty was “a bisexual,” sleeping with “both men and women indiscriminately” (67); LaGuardia, however, while admitting that Clift did sleep with females, explains that his inclinations were
Sherwood had supposedly received a call from President Roosevelt, who thought the script too controversial (Bosworth 75). It was by now 1942; America had entered the war. Working with Alfred Lunt had made Clift aware of how much effort should go into playing a character. An increasing focus on detail and on adding specifics to a role became hallmarks of Monty’s style. He even took dance and singing lessons, in imitation of Lunt but also in an effort to broaden his own range. Indeed, his next part
was in a curious piece that had won an award from the now defunct Group Theatre, Mexican Mural, the title of which referred to it being composed of four separate sketches (called “panels”), each set during Carnival in Vera Cruz. Through this production, Clift formed four friendships that would significantly influence his life and his career. The first and second were with actor Kevin McCarthy and his wife, Augusta; both would remain very close friends with Clift over the next decade. The third
social commentary: The film, he tells us, “aptly demonstrates her contention that fifties Hollywood cinema interiorized social dissent to focus instead on male sexuality” (229). In other words, much of what Dreiser had in mind—issues of class, gender, economics—remain in the film but are manifested in a different way, through a characterization that deconstructs the central image of patriarchy and its use of class, gender, and economics. Throughout the production, Clift, who had carefully read An