Borderline – 1930 – Paul Robeson
What’s the gayest British silent? A few coded homosexuals can be found in Alfred Hitchcock’s early work (check out the swishy dressmaker in 1925’s The Pleasure Garden), while Ivor Novello’s films play up the flamboyant star’s androgyny, playing very odd, allegedly heterosexual men in The Lodger (1926) and The Man without Desire (1923).
But gayest of all remains Borderline, a hotbed of sexual passions set around an interracial love triangle. The main trio may be straight, but the camera’s love of Paul Robeson’s torso – the film was directed and produced by gay men – hints at an even more taboo love story. The male pianist’s longing gazes at a photo of Robeson tell their own tale. It was directed by Kenneth Macpherson, the editor of the landmark film journal Close Up (1927-33) – sadly, following the poor critical reviews for Borderline, he did not direct again. (text BFI)
Adah, a black woman, has an affair with Thorne, a white man, much to the dismay of some of the prejudiced townsfolk and Thorne’s wife, Astrid. Adah attempts a reconciliation with her man, Pete, but eventually leaves him and the town. Meanwhile, Astrid goes mad and cuts Thorne’s face and arm with a knife, but then mysteriously dies. Thorne is tried but acquitted. Because of the events, the mayor sends Pete a letter asking him to leave town for the good of all concerned. Written by Arthur Hausner firstname.lastname@example.org