Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community

Institute History

  • 1985 Sundance Film Festival


Would you believe Ronald Reagan starring in a cross-dressing musical during the war? How about a silent film whose entire cast was said to be gay? Or the “Lavender Cowboy” prancing around the Wild West? From the sexual experimentation of the Roaring Twenties, to the scapegoating of homosexuals during the McCarthy era, to the development of the early homophile rights movement, Before Stonewall presents a unique, at times outrageous, portrait of the history of homosexual experience in America.

Using filmed recollections and a mindboggling wealth of archival material both from the mass media’s portrayal of homosexuality and from the gay subculture’s own documentation, the film traces the social, political, and cultural development of the lesbian and gay communities. This fine documentary offers a wide range of testimony about vice-squad tactics, censorship and witch-hunts which culminated in the historic 1969 confrontation between homosexuals and authorities at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. According to this film, this was the turning point in the gay rights movement.

Screening Details

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