Stonewall (1995 film)

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Stonewall
Stonewall poster 01.jpg
Directed by Nigel Finch
Produced by Christine Vachon
Written by Rikki Beadle-Blair (screenplay)
Martin Duberman (memoir)
Starring Guillermo Díaz
Frederick Weller
Duane Boutte
Bruce MacVittie
Brendan Corbalis
Music by Michael Kamen (composer)
Stephen McLaughlin (producer)
Edited by John Richards
Distributed by Strand Releasing
Release dates
  • 1995 (1995)
Running time 99 minutes
Language English

Stonewall is a 1995 historical comedy-drama film. Inspired by the memoir of the same title by openly-homosexual historian Martin Duberman, Stonewall is a fictionalized account of the weeks leading up to the Stonewall riots, a seminal event in the modern American gay rights movement. Stonewall was the final film of British film director Nigel Finch, who died of an AIDS-related illness shortly after completing filming.

Stonewall stars Guillermo Díaz, Frederick Weller, Duane Boutte and Brendan Corbalis. Dwight Ewell and Luis Guzmán also make cameos.

While the film is a work of fiction, Finch makes the unusual directorial choice of including documentary-style interview footage with several people who were at the Stonewall Inn during the uprising. Finch also intersperses lip synch numbers performed by the actors throughout the film to function as something of a Greek chorus.

The film has now been made into a stage play by Rikki Beadle-Blair and premiered in London and The Edinburgh Festival in 2007.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Matty Dean (Weller), a young gay man, arrives in New York City by bus and immediately heads for Greenwich Village. There he falls in with crossdressing sex worker La Miranda (Díaz) and friends, who take him to the Stonewall Inn. There is a police raid and Matty and La Miranda are arrested.

They are bailed out by Bostonia (Boutte), who is the African-American "mother" of the family of queens who hang out at the Stonewall. Bostonia is the secret lover of Vinnie (Bruce MacVittie), the deeply closeted mafioso who runs the Stonewall. Matty and La Miranda go back to La Miranda's place where she receives her draft notice. They talk all night until Matty leaves to attend a meeting of the Mattachine Society, where he meets Burt (Peter Ratray) and Ethan (Corbalis), who he'd bumped into the night before while Ethan was distributing leaflets. The group is planning a picket at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Ethan and Matty spend some time together after the meeting until Matty goes to meet La Miranda. They witness an initiation of sorts as a young man named José becomes the persona Camelia. After the ceremony they return to La Miranda's place and make love.

Matty Dean spends more time with Ethan, who is a writer under a pseudonym for a homophile magazine. They flirt and become infatuated.

La Miranda reports to the induction center in full drag and is ordered to go for psychological evaluation. La Miranda is terrified because of former bad experiences with psychiatrists, so Matty dons her clothes and meets with the doctor in her place, securing a rejection from military service for her as a "sexual deviant." On the subway ride home, Matty tells La Miranda he loves her.

At a Mattachine meeting, Matty is disgusted by the guest speaker, a psychiatrist who discourses on the then-current disease model of homosexuality, and leaves. After the meeting Burt, Ethan and Matty argue about it on their way to meet with a reporter and photographer from the Village Voice newspaper. The group stages a "sip-in," trying to illustrate discriminatory alcohol service laws by being refused service but no one refuses to serve them until they go to the Stonewall. At the bar La Miranda and Ethan meet and Ethan treats her mockingly. La Miranda realizes that Matty hasn't told his Mattachine friends about her and storms out. Matty follows and they argue about La Miranda's refusal to conform and Matty's feeling the need to be with more masculine men. Matty seeks out Ethan and they begin an affair.

Vinnie takes Bostonia to an isolated rooftop. He points out a clinic he calls the "Palace of Dreams" and tells her that he wants her to have sex reassignment surgery so that they can marry. Bostonia is vehemently opposed to this, declaring herself to be "a chick with a dick who ain't done with her dick yet." Vinnie is miserable and Bostonia reaches to comfort him, but Vinnie is terrified that someone will spot them through one of the distant windows.

Following the Philadelphia picket, Ethan takes Matty to Fire Island, which Ethan describes as "heaven." "Heaven" includes such repressive features as men not being allowed to dance face-to-face, not being allowed to dance at all unless there's a woman on the dance floor and police performing random beach checks for "suggestive" bathing costumes. Given the choice between Ethan's acceptance of that sort of discrimination and La Miranda's defiance, Matty chooses La Miranda and they reconcile.

It is the day of Judy Garland's death. Bostonia watches the television coverage, very depressed. To cheer her up, Vinnie takes her out in full drag in public for the first time. They have ice cream at a fancy restaurant, their open affection drawing disapproving stares from the other patrons, until asked to leave by the manager.

As they wake up together the next morning, Vinnie asks Bostonia if he's ever told her that he loves her. She says no. Vinnie suddenly commits suicide with a bullet through the head and Bostonia becomes hysterical. Vinnie has left her a large amount of cash and scrawled "I LOVE YOU" on a mirror in lipstick.

That night at the Stonewall there's another raid. Several of the queens are arrested, including Bostonia. As she's led out, the arresting officer says "Poor little faggot don't know whether to kill me or kiss me." Bostonia smashes him in the face, saying "I guess I made up my mind." She is attacked by other cops and other queens fight back, touching off the riots that would mark the beginning of the gay community's advocacy movement for its rights.

Cast[edit]

Factual inaccuracies[edit]

Although the film is based on true events, there are some factual inaccuracies. These include:

  • The sip-in did not include the Stonewall Inn as a stop. Service was refused at a bar called Julius. This action took place in 1966, not 1969.[2]
  • The picket in Philadelphia, known as the Annual Reminder, took place each July 4 from 1965 to 1969, later in the summer than depicted in the film.[3]
  • Many of those in attendance at the riots deny categorically that Judy Garland's death was a motivating factor.[4]

Soundtrack listing[edit]

Stonewall:
Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album
Released 1996
Genre Pop
  1. The Shangri-Las – "Give Him a Great Big Kiss"
  2. The Butterflies – "Gee Baby Gee"
  3. The Shangri-Las – "Sophisticated Boom"
  4. The Shirelles – "Ooh Poo Pah Doo"
  5. The Shangri-Las – "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)"
  6. The Ad Libs – "Boy from New York City"
  7. Judy Garland – "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"
  8. Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles – "Down the Aisle"
  9. Bessie Banks – "Go Now"
  10. Judy Garland – "Over the Rainbow"
  11. Barenaked Ladies – "What a Good Boy"
  12. The Shangri-Las – "Give Him a Great Big Kiss" (Hani's Kiss Mix)

Awards[edit]

DVD release[edit]

Stonewall was released on Region 1 DVD on October 26, 1999.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Stonewall". The Drill Hall and Pleasance in association with Team Angelica. 
  2. ^ Eisenbach, pp. 46–47
  3. ^ Marks Ridinger, p. 130
  4. ^ Loughery, p. 316

References[edit]

  • Eisenbach, David (2006). Gay Power: An American Revolution. Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-1633-9.
  • Loughery, John (1998). The Other Side of Silence – Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth-Century History. New York, Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-3896-5.
  • Marks Ridinger, Robert B. (2004). Speaking For Our Lives: Historic Speeches and Rhetoric for Gay and Lesbian Rights (1892-2000). Haworth Press. ISBN 1-56023-175-0.
  • Remembering Stonewall (1988) Sound Portraits Productions, Inc.

External links[edit]