Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tom Tryon

actor and author

American film, stage and television actor Thomas Tryon (1926-91) was best known for his portrayal of an ambitious Catholic priest in the film The Cardinal (1963 - photo at end of post), for which he received a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor (Motion Picture Drama). He also appeared in two epic films about World War II, The Longest Day (1962) and In Harm's Way (1965). His television career was centered around roles in westerns.

Although he had been married for three years during the 1950s, by the 1970s Tryon was in a romantic relationship with Clive Clerk, one of the original cast members of the Broadway sensation, A Chorus Line. Clerk was also an interior designer, and the apartment he decorated for Tryon on Central Park West in New York City was featured in Architectural Digest. Tryon was also involved in a relationship with Cal Culver, also known as Casey Donovan, a famous gay porn star (see photo below). Culver’s best known film, Boys in the Sand, is a classic of the genre.

Disillusioned with Hollywood, Tryon retired from acting in 1969 and began a successful second career as a writer. His most popular novel was Crowned Heads (1987), a collection of four novellas inspired by Hollywood legends. The first of these novellas, Fedora, about a reclusive former film actress whose relationship with her plastic surgeon is similar to that between a drug addict and her pusher, was later filmed by Billy Wilder. It is considered to be a minor classic of the thriller/horror genres. Other novellas in the collection were based on the murder of former gay silent screen star Ramón Novarro, and the quasi-Oedipal relationship between gay actor Clifton Webb and his mother.

Another popular book was The Other (1971), an influential psychological horror novel about personality transference between twins. It was made into a film about a boy whose evil twin brother may or may not be responsible for a series of deaths in a small rural community set in the 1930s. A later novel, Lady, written in 1975, concerns the friendship between an eight-year-old boy and a charming widow in 1930s New England and the secret he discovers about her.


  1. Tom Tryon was a guest of a friend of mine in our 'secret' dues paying private Gay club in NYC.
    I was a pretty good pool shooter in the 70's when Tom and a few others stood around the pool table watching me shoot "straight-pool" for $50.00 a game.
    When I bent down to take aim and make a shot, Tom was right behind me and I unintentionally hit him in the crouch with the back end of the handle of my cue-stick. He said: "Hey, watch it" and I told him to: "Move your ass next time"...He laughed and so did I, and I never saw him again.
    Oh, I did hear him say that he had just returned from Jamaica where he was a house guest in Noel Cowards "Firefly" home.

    1. that's a great story. when i read these stories i always think, "ugh i wish i had been there"

  2. I liked Tom Tryon very much. He was a great actor, I will never forget him. Alejandro Lepe G. from Chile.

  3. I began reading Thomas Tryon at age 12. Junior high was both a bore and a breeze; I spent all my free time reading. The year before, age 11, my reading list included The Great Gatsby and Helter Skelter. Back to Tryon. I was in Mrs. Libby's sewing class, my assignment complete, when I picked up The Other. Ada and Niles are in the cemeteryear, where Ada is forced to make her beloved grandson see the truth. My shock at this revelaction was so great I dropped my book. Brilliant use of sunspense.
    I was never able to catch the movie's tv re-runs, so waited years to see. Although Tryon was not happy with the final pŕint, I, the amateur hold the film in highest regard. I feel it is the perfect realization of the novel.

    1. i was surprised when I read how much he didn't like the movie. i thought it was incredible. then again, most writers really detest the film made from their novel.

  4. I am not sure if this was in your essay...but the filming of The Cardinal was a demeaning, terrifying and humiliating experience. the story is well known in Hollywood. Director Otto Preminger verbally abused, humiliated and almost destroyed Tom's identity. Preminger actually had a breakdown, which he never fully recovered from. It was this that may have made Tyron leave film completely. When i read this, my theory is that Preminger was a closet case and was attractedd to Tyron then bullied him. which of course, happens with most closeted men. we all know that. Thank God he moved on and made a better life for himself. I have watched the film, The Other, maybe five times now. If you love older movies, appreciatee drama/tragedy meets horror NEED TO SEE THIS FILM. the actors are superb. the boys who play the twin brothers are phenomenal (keep in mind..the boys are actual twin brothers...found from a determined casting agent who went to different schools to find twins). Tyron had a very true gift. It seems you can find on you tube...the Return of Harvest House...the copy isnot good. but Bette Davis is amazing. Tyron's life is another that teaches gay men to fight, no matter what to hold will get are not alone. That is what I hope for. We need to tell Tyron's story to so many gays from the younger generation. I wouold have loved to have known his story.

  5. Just watched TT in a 'Big Valley' episode. Wanted to check his bio. And of course, I saw the movie ' the Cardinal' as a young girl. Had no idea .... many surprises ..... easy to remember, hard to forget .... he was a very good actor.
    Adding him to my list of memorable 'hollywood' ...who gave memorable moments on screen. Prayers

  6. As a heterosexual black man living in Los Angeles California I have suspected that many of the famous actors were closeted gay men. This is how Hollywood has always operated. First you have the Hollywood studio's Metro Goldwyn Meyer. RKO, etc. All of the studio's were staffed by gay talent scouts, gay producers,gay directors (John Ford), gay studio executive's. Second, you had very young and impressionable men and women like John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Steve Mcqueen, Carey Grant, Randolph Scott, Montgomery Clift, Ronald Reagan etc, who were in their teens and early twentues when they entered Hollywood studio's and they had to run the gay gauntlet of gay studio executives, so John Wayne was getting blow jobs from men and Montgomery Clift and the rest of the Hollywood stars were giving and taki it up the ass by other men hecause it was the only way to become a big movie star in Hollywood in the 1930s 40s 50s and 60s. Read gay Hollywood actor Scotty Bowers book called Full Service. Tom Tryon Harvey Presnell. James Caan Paul Newman.

  7. Can't wait to get scotty's book. Everything we see on the silver screen is mostly pure image and not reflective of real life. I've read where Cary Grant actually had a nervous breakdown when the studio system demanded he move out of Randolph Scott's home.

    They had seven failed marriages between them and died within three months of one another with Grant going first. I don't believe they ever fell out of love with one another. Scott, to my recollection, never had biological children but adopted a boy and a girl to make his image of a "normal" marriage complete. Grant fathered actress Jennifer Grant his only child.

    I'd liken Hollywood and everything affiliated with it--including modeling--to Slavery mixed with prostitution. All fakery--not at all unlike politics and organized religion. Tom Tryon in his role as The Cardinal reminded me of "queen" Bishop Fulton J. Sheen of New York. He was so revered but also obviously gay. Even as a young child I saw through his pompous overly religious bearing and manner of speech. He was unabashedly a gay man to his dying day. The media, however, didn't "go in" on Sheen. He was for all intents and purposes "untouchable." And that was likely because of the secrets he kept on the high and mighty--in or out of the religious circle.

    Sex and perversion have been in the world from the beginning. What we see is nothing compared to what the high and mighty movers and shakers work tirelessly to keep up from seeing.