gender-bending disguises: movies & TV pre-1980

Gender-bending disguises: pre-1980

From Shakespeare to Shakespeare in Love, playwrights and filmmakers have delighted in disguising their female characters as men. Sometimes they have aimed for a realistic look and sometimes they’ve played it for laughs.

The movies

First a Girl (1935): Elizabeth (Jessie Matthews), a messenger girl and aspiring entertainer, steps in for a female impersonator – playing a boy impersonating a girl, impersonating a boy! As Mr Victoria she quickly becomes a highly successful female impersonator, with Victor (the female impersonator) as her manager. She also finds that she has become attractive to both men and women, but there are some who have their suspicions. Very different in tone to the ‘highly ambiguous rendering of the same character by Renate Müller’.

Viktor und Viktoria (1933): The German film, featuring Renate Müller, which inspired both First a Girl and the later Blake Edwards remake Victor/Victoria (1982). Coming soon …