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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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.

  • 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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