Queens at Heart

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Queens at Heart
The words "Queens at Heart" appear inside a stylized heart.
Title screen
StarringMisty, Vicky, Sonja, Simone
Narrated byJay Martin
Southeastern Pictures Corporation
Release date
  • 1967 (1967)
Running time
22 minutes
CountryUnited States

Queens at Heart is an American short film described as both a documentary and an exploitation film in which four trans women are interviewed about their lives. It was produced in the mid-1960s. The film was digitally preserved in 2009 by the UCLA Film and Television Archive as part of the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation. Andrea James and Jenni Olson were among those who worked on its restoration.

Synopsis and cast[edit]

Four trans women from New York City are interviewed in what is professed to be part of a six-month psychological project.[1][2] They are introduced as "contestants in a recent beauty contest".[3] The four of them answer questions about their lives as trans women. They discuss having to present as male during the day at their jobs, undergoing hormone therapy, their dating lives, and their childhood.[4] They also discuss the draft for the Vietnam War.[4][5] In addition to the interviews, the film contains footage documenting a drag ball.[1][6]

The four women give their names as Misty, Vicky, Sonja, and Simone.[6] Full names are not used, since the interviewer notes the four of them are breaking a law against cross-dressing.[3][7] Misty works as a bank teller, Vicky works as a cosmetician, Sonja is a hairdresser, and Simone works on window displays.[8] The interviews are conducted by Jay Martin.[5]

Production and release[edit]

The film was anonymously made,[3] and its production date is also unknown.[1] The Southeastern Pictures Corporation initially released Queens at Heart alongside the 1967 film She-Man.[1] Queens at Heart has subsequently been dated to around 1965[2][5] or 1967.[6][9][10]

In the mid-1990s, Jenni Olson rediscovered the film after buying a 35 mm reel from a Kansas City projectionist for $75.[6] An ad in the film collecting periodical The Big Reel brought it to her attention.[11] Only a few prints of Queens at Heart existed,[1] and the original negative has been lost.[8] The film was digitally restored from two prints whose color had faded.[9] The restoration was done by the UCLA Film and Television Archive for the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation; it was completed in 2009.[5][8] The film was the first to be deposited into the project's archive.[12] Funding for the film's restoration was provided by Joanne Herman, as well as the Andrew J. Kuehn, Jr. Foundation and Outfest; Andrea James, Tom Letness, Dick Millais, Jenni Olson, and Kristin Pepe were also involved in the restoration.[13]

The restored film screened at Outfest in 2010.[14] Queens at Heart was screened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2012 alongside two other films about early LGBT life: Mona's Candle Light (1950) and Choosing Children (1984).[9] In 2019, the IFC Center in New York City played it alongside a restored version of the 1968 documentary The Queen.[15] The film also appears on the video streaming platform Kanopy within the United States;[5] it was added to its collection in 2016.[16] Queens at Heart is a bonus feature on Kino Lorber's 2020 Blu-ray for The Queen.[17][18] The UCLA Film & Television Archive uploaded Queens at Heart to YouTube in 2021.[19]

Critical response[edit]

In the 21st century, it has been variously described as a trans exploitation film,[20] a short documentary film,[10] and an "exploitation documentary short".[12] However, critics have also noted it provides a candid look at the life of some transgender women in the time before the Stonewall riots. J. Hoberman for The New York Times called it "at once an exploitation film and an educational one, with a tone variously prurient, dismissive, and nonjudgemental".[15] Sarah Fonseca for them. called it "a red-blooded American exploitation film that tries to pass itself off as an expert documentary" and criticized the interviewer but also said the four women's participation "has enormous value for those interested in queer and trans life before Stonewall."[5] Olson has described this as "the most important film" that she found.[12] The film is included among the Staff Picks on Kanopy.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Stout, David (May 3, 2008). "New slate of landmark films to be restored". Q-Notes. Vol. 22, no. 26. p. 22. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 19, 2021. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Higgins, Scott; Ross, Sara (2006). Higgins, Scott; Ross, Sara (eds.). "Archival News". Cinema Journal. 45 (4): 129–130. doi:10.1353/cj.2006.0032. JSTOR 4137176.
  3. ^ a b c Brody, Richard (June 26, 2019). ""The Queen": The Documentary That Went Behind the Scenes of a Drag Pageant Years Before "Paris Is Burning"". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on June 30, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Olson, Jenni. Queens at Heart: Trans Women in the 60's (Media notes). Kanopy. 1249097. Archived from the original on July 5, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Fonseca, Sarah (June 14, 2019). "These 10 Documentaries Show What Queer Life Was Like Before Stonewall". them. Archived from the original on July 11, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Olson, Jenni (June 27, 2019). ""The Queen" and "Queens at Heart": Your Essential Pride Double Feature". NewNowNext. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  7. ^ Heilbroner, David; Davis, Kate (2011) [2010]. "Stonewall Uprising". American Experience. Season 23. Episode 9. Event occurs at 26:37. PBS. Archived from the original on July 1, 2019. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Queens at Heart. Southeastern Pictures Corporation. 2009 [c. 1967] – via Kanopy.
  9. ^ a b c King, Loren (August 11, 2012). "Preserved documentaries depicting gay life screen at MFA". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Pepe, Kristin (KP) (2011). "Outside the Hollywood Canon: Preserving Lesbian Moving Images". GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 17 (4): 638. doi:10.1215/10642684-1302433. S2CID 145424208.
  11. ^ Tavares, Nathan (August 3, 2020). "Newly Acquired Queer Film Collection At Harvard Film Archive Celebrates Butch Identity". The ARTery. WBUR. Archived from the original on October 14, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c Peterson, Jennifer (July 27, 2016). "The Long Take Breathes, It Makes Room: An Interview with Jenni Olson". Incite. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  13. ^ "Highlighting the Outfest Legacy Project: Three Films". UCLA Film & Television Archive. Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  14. ^ "Panels & Special Events". The 28th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Film Guide. Outfest. Los Angeles. 2010. p. 37.
  15. ^ a b Hoberman, J. (June 27, 2019). "In 'The Queen,' Rivals Pour Their Hearts Out". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  16. ^ Tidal, Junior (August 4, 2016). "New Kanopy Films for August". LibraryBuzz. Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  17. ^ Stiffler, Scott (February 22, 2020). "'The Queen' earns its crown in drag herstory pantheon". Los Angeles Blade. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  18. ^ Schaefer, Stephen (June 1, 2020). "Stephen Schaefer's Hollywood & Mine". Boston Herald. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  19. ^ Olson, Jenni (June 9, 2021). "Queens at Heart: Rediscovering a Pre-Stonewall Portrait of Trans Lives". UCLA Film & Television Archive. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  20. ^ Steinbock, Eliza (2016). "Misogyny". In Fritsch, Kelly; O'Connor, Clare; Thompson, AK (eds.). Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle. Chico, CA: AK Press. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-84935-242-0.

External links[edit]