Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!

The thing that always bothered me about effeminate men is that they're so unladylike. They tend to be rather crude. I never understood it. I thought maybe efforts to make them more masculine when they were kids had this effect. You get the worst of both worlds, exaggerated femininity and exaggerated masculine crudity.

Kenneth Williams was a British comic actor. He appeared in the "Carry On" films and on British radio and television. He was obviously gay if homosexual stereotypes had any basis at all in reality.

The movie Kenneth Williams Fantabulosa! is a biopic based on his diaries which he kept from age 14. Much of the movie focuses on his apparent fear of sex. The fact that homosexuality was a serious crime in Britain carrying a long prison sentence gave him a good excuse not to force himself.

"Sexually, I'm as juvenile as ever and unresolved," he wrote. His obsessive cleanliness didn't help.

He may have done more than he admitted. Since it was a crime, confessing to it in a diary would have been a bad idea.

And there was a far more serious crime he may have committed that his diaries (and the film) may have glossed over a bit. He was the only suspect in the death of his father who died after drinking a cleaning chemical kept in a cough syrup bottle. Williams hated his father for pretty good reason and was indifferent to his death.

According to Wikipedia, Williams was offered a role in an Orson Welles movie. He turned it down saying that he had no desire to work in America. In truth, he couldn't get a visa because he was a murder suspect. As far as I know, it was never clear if his father's death was murder or an accident.

The movie went into Williams' relationship with playwright Joe Orton and Orton's longtime companion Kenneth Halliwell. They had been the subject of another movie, Prick Up Your Ears, about events that led to their murder-suicide.

Williams' background was working class. His father took him out of school when he was fourteen to learn a trade and he went into the Army when he was older. But he acted aristocratic. He was a snob, but his humor was strictly low brow. He was fired from a TV show because the star considered him a "grotesque".

Starring Michael Sheen, Cheryl Campbell, and Peter Wright. Available for instant viewing on Netflix.

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