Before Brokeback: The First Same-Sex Kiss in Cinema (1927)

Brain­Pick­ings recent­ly high­light­ed the first kiss in cin­e­ma his­to­ry. That takes you back to 1896, to a film brought to you by Thomas Edi­son. Now we rewind the video­tape and present the first same-sex kiss in film his­to­ry (or at least one of the ear­li­est known ones). This Broke­back-before-Broke­back moment took place in the 1927 film Wings — the first and only silent film to win the Acad­e­my Award for Best Pic­ture. Bud­dy Rogers and Richard Arlen star in the film, play­ing two com­bat pilots who vie for the affec­tion of the same woman (Clara Bow). That’s the sto­ry­line. But nei­ther, as writer Kevin Ses­sums writes, “shows as much love for her … as they do for each oth­er.”

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via Andrew Sul­li­van

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Comments (35)
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  • Mari says:

    I don’t know that I would clas­si­fy it as boy on boy kiss­ing. Bud­dy Rogers only caught a cor­ner of Richard Arlen’s lips, but my good­ness, they are pas­sion­ate about being friends aren’t they?

    • KatRos says:

      When film mak­ing first start­ed actors tend­ed to use the same tech­niques that they used on the stage. On the stage they would exag­ger­ate the actions because the audi­ence was so far away that they could­n’t real­ly tell what was going on with­out the exag­ger­a­tion. Even­tu­al­ly, film mak­ers real­ized that this exag­ger­a­tion looked unre­al­is­tic in film.

  • Shannon says:

    I was sur­prised at how nat­ur­al it felt. Of course the scene is some­what homo­erot­ic, but it was heart­warm­ing as well.

  • Sheldon Hall says:

    Tech­ni­cal­ly, no silent film has won the Acad­e­my Award for Best Pic­ture because no such award was giv­en in the first round of Oscars. WINGS was actu­al­ly named Best Pro­duc­tion, while anoth­er “silent” film (albeit one with pre-record­ed music and sound effects), SUNRISE, received Artis­tic Qual­i­ty of Pro­duc­tion. (Talkies were specif­i­cal­ly exclud­ed from con­sid­er­a­tion for either award.) The fol­low­ing year these two cat­e­gories were replaced by a sin­gle award for Best Pic­ture.

  • Steve Irwin says:

    First heinekan Beer com­mer­cial ever made.….…..

  • mzkatzeyz says:

    He kissed him on the cheek. It looked to me more like a demon­stra­tion of friend­ship and affec­tion than a sex­u­al act. Nice try, I don’t believe this was the first same sex kiss on film. Women kiss each oth­er all the time and again in an affec­tion­ate way not sex­u­al. Keep comb­ing the archives for the real first homo­sex­u­al kiss.

    • Jared Davis says:

      The arti­cle does not claim that it is sex­u­al.

      • AJ says:

        it seems peo­ple are obsessed with the ‘sex­u­al’ part so much that they cant see the whole point of the arti­cle and the scene: the deep affec­tion and love between the two.

  • KatRos says:

    Real­ly??? A friend is dying and you think this means some­thing sex­u­al? Men can and do have affec­tion for each oth­er that isn’t sex­u­al.

  • ohreally? says:

    actu­al­ly between the 20u00b4s and 30u00b4s it was quite accept­ed to be gay. There where gay clubs every­where (called pan­sy clubs) up until the depres­sion of the 30u00b4s when peo­ple start­ed going back to reli­gion gays where much more accept­ed in the usa then they are now.

  • Andrew says:

    Idk… the way they caress­ing each oth­er after the kiss seems like more than friend­ship to me, but what­ev­er. No mat­ter what is show or talked about, there are always going to be peo­ple try­ing to decrease its val­ue or degrad­ing oth­ers opin­ions. It was a great scene either way. Even if it was or was­n’t the first one, or did or did not receive what­ev­er award, just enjoy some­thing for a change.

  • dr_bombay says:

    the fun­ni­est part to me is that they both are com­plete­ly ignor­ing clara bow. grant­ed one is kind of busy dying, but still.

  • Eric8 says:

    breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful scene — that is all

  • Wayne Kelley says:

    I agree this says same sex kiss does it mat­ter wether it’s so called gay our not? It’s still two men kiss­ing on the lips, embrace was around then before then and now it’ll be here for­ev­er so grow up PPL. Let be what will be.

  • paerki says:

    I find the title to this post just a tad tawdry. Broke­back? No! Homo­erot­ic? Yes! An inter­est­ing commentu2026 u201cWhen film mak­ing first start­ed actors tend­ed to use the same tech­niques that they used on the stage. On the stage they would exag­ger­ate the actions because the audi­ence was so far away that they could­n’t real­ly tell what was going on with­out the exag­ger­a­tion. Even­tu­al­ly, film mak­ers real­ized that this exag­ger­a­tion looked unre­al­is­tic in film.u201dnnThere is no deny­ing itu2019s a beau­ti­ful scene and it did tug at my heart­strings. It demon­strates love is love. Man-to-man / woman-to-woman love is beau­ti­ful, in any capacity.nnThe mes­sage is clear we must stop attack­ing love. We must hug, cry, kiss and sim­ply love more, espe­cial­ly as men. As men, we must not be afraid to show affec­tion towards oth­er men. I have many straight male friends that I kiss when we meet and part. No, these men are not gay, but they are com­fort­able with their sexuality.nnAmerica and its sex­u­al pruderyu2026 Ugh! How­ev­er, some men and cer­tain sex­u­al groups must stop being so promis­cu­ous. Show a lit­tle respect for your­self, but I digress.

  • Gregg Colamonico says:

    As a gay man, I caught sev­er­al homo­erot­ic moments in the film. First, it’s pret­ty well known now that actor Bud­dy Rogers was gay. To me, he’s boy­ish­ly good look­ing with an easy smile.

    At the end of the box­ing match with Richard Arlen, they throw their arms around each oth­er and wipe the blood from each oth­er’s faces with their box­ing gloves. Rogers’ remark “Boy, you’re game!” when Arlen keeps get­ting up, no mat­ter how many times Rogers decks him, sounds homo­erot­ic to me.

    Then of course, there’s the kiss. I don’t remem­ber too many war movies where some­one is dying and his bud­dy kiss­es him, their lips touch­ing, from the side, yes, but still touch­ing. And as some­one points out, Rogers and Arlen’s close friend­ship is fea­tured much more through the movie than the scenes involv­ing the women.

    So was this all unin­ten­tion­al and we, in our more gay-aware era, just pick­ing up on this now? Or was some­one who was involved in the script secret­ly gay and put in these homo­erot­ic moments?

  • LW says:

    That gor­geous music. Is that the orig­i­nal score?

  • Carol says:

    This les­bian sug­gests we call the men’s rela­tion­ship “love.” Apply any adjec­tives you wish to.

  • Hanford W. Searl Jr. says:

    … As an Award-Win­ning, Print-Jour­nal­ist of 45+ yrs. on both Coasts, includ­ing 15 with “Bill­board Mag­a­zine” in L.A., Vegas-&-here in thee Bflo./Rochester, NY mar­kets, I found thee music almost as com­pelling as their “Kiss.” & total­ly amused by so many Homo­pho­bic com­ments ahead of my Post. Poor, inse­cure STR8’s, most­ly guys-of-course!?! LOL!!!

  • pdquick says:

    It got all misty in here just now.

  • Tony Wilson says:

    Lurid reac­tions like this con­tribute to homo­pho­bia. It makes men afraid to show affec­tion, pla­ton­ic or oth­er­wise, to each oth­er.

  • Bob Eckert says:

    “I want­ed to get one more Heinie for you…”

  • Dan Mauller says:

    Small cor­rec­tion: Clara Bow played Mary, who was in love with Jack (Bud­dy Rogers), who viewed her as “just a friend.” Joby­na Ral­ston played Sylvia, the girl both guys were vying for.

  • Dcto says:

    Except none of these film mak­ers were from the stage. The­atre leg­end Duse was famous for under­play­ing on stage.

  • Vance says:

    No, that is not the sound­track that was in the TCM show­ing this past week­end… a restored 2012 print done by Para­mount. The song played to this tender,tragic scene was an instru­men­tal ver­sion of “My Bud­dy”

    I find that an inter­est­ing choice because this song’s lyrics can sug­gest a pla­ton­ic or an erot­ic rela­tion­ship.

  • R L says:

    In those years, pri­va­cy and iso­la­tion were less stressed than now. Group show­ers, open bar­racks, even open phys­i­cals dur­ing induc­tion were accept­ed. Young men tend­ed to be more sen­ti­men­tal with their friends, in pri­vate or in cer­tain pub­lic places, because the hard­ness of life pre­sumed man­hood, with­out prov­ing it. Now-a-days, with so few require­ments for ardu­ous and dan­ger­ous dai­ly tasks, we became more con­cerned about apprarance. Look how in the 1940’s and 1950’s, young men would pre­tend to box each oth­er, rather than sim­ple shoul­der grabs.
    I can tell you than under the stress of com­bat, you get tru­ly close to your mates, espe­cial­ly your best friend. The reliance, the trust, the con­nec­tion takes on a val­ue of its own. The desire to hide feel­ings van­ish­es. The need for com­fort increases.You want noth­ing held back, lest you regret, if one of you dies. The full­ness of expe­ri­ence is both nec­es­sary and sus­tain­ing. A hug or kiss is under­stood as just anoth­er con­nec­tion in two lives essen­tial­ly inter­twined. A kiss is a shar­ing of air as much as a hug is shar­ing of warmth. In this case, it is a reminder that the friend is a vital part of his life, it is a wish that he could give his own breath to save his friend, it is a tast­ing of his breath as a keep­sake, for after­ward. It is a reminder that no appear­ance is more impor­tant than the remem­brance that nei­ther is ever alone, espe­cial­ly the one about to cross over.
    Love is love, mat­ter it’s nuance, and in life and death, love either is unabashed­ly whole, or it isn’t love. I have friends I lost young that I wish I’d been hon­est enough to kiss. Life and death is not about regret­ting what a kiss looked like to peo­ple not in it. It is about regret­ting you even cared what they thought, more than about cher­ish­ing your beloved friend.
    I don’t care whether the kiss moved a mind, a heart, a soul, or loins. It moved two friends, and shared their uni­ty. That’s what a kiss is!

  • Paul Maher Jr. says:

    This evokes Walt Whit­man’s notion of cama­raderie … or “adhe­sive­ness” of that found in the broth­er­ly affec­tions of sol­diers dur­ing the war.

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