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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Laurence Harvey

 
Film actor Laurence Harvey (1928-1973) was married three times, but he was actually a gay man who was trying to get the public off the scent of his true nature. His career stalled, and he did not become what anyone could call a major star. In spite of that, he got a lot of work, especially during the 1960s. Neither the public, critics nor friends said anything positive about his acting ability. He was in only one film that can be called a classic – "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), with Frank Sinatra – but Harvey had little to do with its success.

George Jacobs, Frank Sinatra’s valet, wrote “Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra,” a memoir in which he relates that Harvey often made passes at him while visiting Sinatra. Jacobs says that  Sinatra was aware of Harvey's sexuality but did not mind, passing it off as a joke: “He has the handicaps of being a homo, a Jew, and a Polock*, so people should go easy on him.”

*Harvey was actually born to a Jewish family in Lithuania.

British actor John Fraser , author of “Close Up,” also wrote that Harvey was gay, pointing out that Harvey’s long-term partner was James Wolfe, his manager who "discovered" Harvey in the 1950s. Harvey’s marriages to and dalliances with women were usually with females about twice his age.

Laurence Harvey (photographed in 1954, at right) was a master of deception. While he maintained his entire life that his birth name was Laruschka Mischa Skikne, it was actually Zvi Mosheh Skikne. His Jewish family moved from Lithuania to South Africa when he was five years old, and while living in Johannesburg he took the name of Harry Skikne. While in his teens he served with the entertainment unit of the South African Army during WW II. After moving to London, he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he became known as "Larry." Dropping out of the academy, he began to perform on stage and in films, simultaneously adopting the stage name "Laurence Harvey." At last a name he liked.

Dame Judi Dench (currently appearing in Skyfall in yet another terrific turn as M) appeared on stage with Harvey in Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1959. She later talked of being bewildered at how Harvey never actually looked at her during his speeches. At the time, Joss Ackland was quoted as saying, “Americans seemed to think Harvey was some sort of great actor, which his colleagues certainly did not.” * Harvey was regularly dismissed by critics. In his posthumously published autobiography, “Knight Errant,” actor Robert Stephens described Harvey as "an appalling man and, even more unforgivably, an appalling actor.” He was often accused of being unprofessional, as many commented on the frustration that resulted from his chronic late arrival on the set. Harvey played out his career largely in undistinguished films, TV work and the occasional supporting role in a major production.

*Incredibly, Harvey received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his leading role in "Room at the Top" (1959), a British film. Although he did not win, he was more or less type cast; he played a conniving, ruthless, heartless social-climber.

David Shipman wrote of Harvey in 1972: “Laurence Harvey's career should be an inspiration to all budding actors: he has demonstrated conclusively that it is possible to succeed without managing to evoke the least audience interest or sympathy - and to go on succeeding despite unanimous critical antipathy and overwhelming public apathy. His twenty year career of mainly unprofitable films is a curiosity of film history.”

Although the British-made film "Darling" (1965) was one of the earliest films to depict gay characters in a sympathetic light, the closets were bursting on the set. There was Harvey, of course, but also Dirk Bogarde, who although deeply closeted, was having an affair with director John Schlesinger. Bogarde, who carried on a 40-year relationship with his agent, Tony Forwood, invested considerable energy in trying to portray himself publicly as a heterosexual. John Schlesinger hoped that his friend, Roland Curram, might be inspired enough by his role in "Darling" to come out of the closet. Curram always insisted he was heterosexual and went on to marry and later sire two children. In 1985, on the occasion of his divorce and ultimate coming out to his family and friends, Curram stated, “Of course, John was right.”

Well, there you have it.

Update from your blogger: I am aghast at some of the comments from my blog readers. This is not a personal attack. I am not "very young" (in fact, I'm close to retirement). I am certainly not antisemitic (I have been employed by a synagogue for 26 years). Before I wrote this entry for my blog about influential gay and bisexual men, I had known Laurence Harvey only as a second-tier movie actor, and his name was on a list of gay and bisexual actors. There are many gay and bisexual film and stage actors on this blog. But when I started to do research on Harvey, I was astonished at how much negative information had been written about him by those who worked with him during his film career. If you re-read this entry, notice how those comments are referenced and credited to those who wrote or commented about Harvey's less than charming traits. I have never met the man, and I have seen only four of his films. I have no grudge against him. I just related what I found out in my research on the man and cited those who wrote or spoke about him.

A scene from "The Magic Christian" (1969) in which Harvey recites Hamlet's soliloquy while stripping before an astonished audience (I'm not making this up):


Oh, I nearly forgot. Scottish-born actor John Fraser called Harvey "a whore" in his 2006 memoir, mentioned above. A very heavy drinker (for good reason, it would appear), Harvey died from stomach cancer at the age of just forty-five. He is buried in Santa Barbara, California, next to his daughter (by his third wife), who died at the age of thirty-five.

Trivia: In 1963, Laurence Harvey built a house in Beverly Hills (designed by Buff & Hensman) that came to have an incredible “gay” pedigree. Musical comedy composer Jerry Herman went on to own it, followed by Max Mutchnick, the co-creator of the TV hit Will & Grace. The 9,200 sq. ft. house was next sold to Ellen Degeneres, for $29 million in 2007. It was purchased six months ago from Ms. Degeneres by Ryan Seacrest (no comment, and nothing implied, naturally, but I do hear some choking noises off in the distance).

54 comments:

  1. First of all, Happy Holidays, blog bud !!!

    I might be a minority of one, but I thought "Larry" was mesmerizing in 'Butterfield 8' as well as one of the all time handsomest men of any persuasion. His boyish good looks and slim build made me giddy.

    The fact that he shares my heritage totally seals the deal for me. I'd have been happy for him to read to me from the London phone book any time ! ;>)

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    1. I thought he wa an amazing actor. Summer and Smoke, Walk on the Wild Side, room at the Top....fantastic

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    2. Oh God, ME TOO! I've been crushing on Laurence Harvey since I was a little girl of 10 and saw him break his sword across his knee before he died as the chilly-mannered William Barrett Travis in The Alamo (1960), John Wayne's own PERSONAL choice for that role. Laurence Harvey was a movie star. A gorgeous one. A talented one. The above "piece" infuriates me. What kind of hatred makes someone say "which he most certainly did not win" instead of just "which he did not win"? Slimy.

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    3. Totally agree! This reads like a "Hit Piece", hard to understand. Laurence Harvey may have been a horror in his personal life (I also "share his heritage" along w/ O!Daddie above) and many people of that heritage (I'm not identifying w/ it so much anymore) are MUY DIFICIL to work with. But please consider: Romeo&Juliet (1954); Room at the Top (1959); Summer&Smoke (1963); Of Human Bondage (1964); Darling (1965) and his best role: Manchurian Candidate (1964) ~ not a bad legacy! And yes, easy to crush on but I'm glad I didn't know him (personally)!

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  2. Harvey was actually very successful in the late 50s and early 60s - he did 4 films in 1962. His career though peaked and was over before he died quite young. True that none of his co-stars had a kind word for him: Stanwyck, Jane Fonda, Lee Remick, Capucine etc. but 3 of them won best actress opppsite him: Simone Signoret, Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Christie, where he really only has a small part in Darling. He was on stage a few times too, in Camelot, and I saw him in a production of Shakespeare's The Winters Tale about 1967 when I was a teenager. So he certainly got work for a while, but it was all over by the mid 60s really. His career is similar to that other actor whom I suspect was gay too - Stephen Boyd, who also died in his 40s and whose career had also peaked by then.

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  3. So sorry to disagree...I thought Harvey was amazing as Col. Travis in Wayne's "The Alamo". I found him unbelievably good looking and gifted. I simply adored him and everything in which he acted. BTW, I am a straight woman. But if he was gay, I would stand in line to convert him!

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    1. I agree whole-heartedly!! I adored him in everything he did. I am watching Two Loves as I type. Lol

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    2. Thank you, anonymous straight woman, I so agree, would stand in that line with you. I especially love seeing you love him for that great portrayal of Travis in the Alamo.

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  6. I will continue to delete anonymous comments that disrespect the information contained in my posts, which are supported by the sources I cite. This often happens in posts about actors who are favorites of readers of this blog, and they cannot abide any information that chips away at the reputation of their idol. The fact that those who leave such comments do so anonymously speaks volumes.

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  7. Erm... I´m pretty sure Dirk Bogarde didn´t have an affair with John Schlesinger. Wonder where you got that from... Don´t know what other people wrote here, but I´m anonymous because I can´t bother to sign up, btw.

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  8. From your blogger: Details of the relationship between Bogarde and Schlesinger are revealed by William J. Mann, Schlesinger's official biographer, in Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger.

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    1. Mann is a writer whose claim to fame is that he buttonholes nearly every actor and actress who ever worked in film as "gay". I'm gay, but I'm rational enough to know that not every talented person in the world shares my same-sex sexual orientation.

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  9. Hi Terry:
    Unless I missed their names, I don't see Stephen Boyd or John Schlesinger listed in the blog

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  10. Harvey may be dislikeable on screen but he is weirdly intense & mesmerising so nobody should call him a rubbish actor.

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    1. That's how I see him too, Molly. How he might have been in person had nothing to do with the actor I loved on screen.

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    2. Agree. I saw him as almost entirely responsible for the success of The Manchurian Candidate. Not responsible for any of it? What gives? I'm flummoxed at all this!

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  11. I totally disagree with this spiteful and completely unwarranted demolition job done on Laurence Harvey. He turned in many notable performances in classic 50's films such as `Room at the Top` for which he was nominated for an Oscar and no, his northern accent didn't sound Johannesburg/Bradford as some catty critics would have it. `The Good Die Young` and `Expresso Bongo` are entertaining films. `Walk on the Wild Side` and `Summer and Smoke` and `The Running Man` are good stuff from the 60's. Hands off Larry!

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  12. From your blogger_
    My, we have touched a nerve! Believe what you will, but my comments are sourced. This is not a personal attack. If you think Harvey was a great actor or fine person, 99% of the people who knew him or worked with him disagree with you. I will continue to chip away at anonymous comments that disrespect the information contained in my posts, which are supported by the sources I cite. This often happens in posts about actors who are favorites of readers of this blog, and they cannot abide any information that tarnishes the reputation of their idol. The fact that those who leave such comments do so anonymously speaks volumes.

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    1. You may be right Terry. How often these things are true. I have known many famous aholes. I just happen to be a fan of him and his movies. Sad to me that he died so young.

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    2. kiridahio@yahoo.comMay 23, 2015 at 10:48 PM

      you should look at the big picture. Laurence Harvey is an enigma who could be different in various situations.. Did you know him personally. I always feel that if someone has a capacity to capture admiration or love from a audience, then there will always be some negative character to cut him down.

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  13. To suggest that Laurence Harvey was not a terrific actor nor a real star, is ridiculous. You must be very young. He was briefly a huge star. He was brilliant in Room at theTop, Darling, The Manchurian Candidate, and Butterfield 8. Some people didn't care for him, some did. Elizabeth Taylor adored him. And he was sexy, no doubt about it.And had one of the most distinctive delicious speaking voices in movies.

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  14. You must be very young not to think that Laurence Harvey was a terrific actor and brifly, a huge star. He was sensational in Room at the Top, Butterfield 8, Darling, The Alamo, and Summer and Smoke, among others. True, he was widely disliked. But having said that, Dirk Bogarde wasn't universally loved either, and he was a wonderful actor. Who is loved by all? The one person who adored him totally however, was Elizabeth Taylor, and to me that alone counts for a great deal. In fact she loved him so much, that when he was dying, she had to be barred from hospital visits because she created such a drama. And he had one of the most delicious speaking voices in films. I thought he was wonderful. On the screen anyway.

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  15. Harvey was one of the top 5 sexiest actors Hollywood ever gave birth to. his shirtless scenes are sine qua none.

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  16. I thought the review was unnecessarily negative and reeks of bitterness and a tinge of antisemitism. I saw him in "Walk on the wild side" and thought he was the stuff dreams were made of, his uniqueness in the roaster of stars shines...oh not to forget "The Manchurian Candidate"...greatness!

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    1. To Toby Ross: I think you mean "roster of stars" but "roaster" a great description ~ a real hoot!! After all, the film world is akin to a pressure cooker! BTW ~ didn't Liz (Taylor) & L Harvey make a movie in the early '70s, a mystery where Liz plays his wife and he's trying to kill her? Please, what's the name of that one?

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  17. Harvey has always been my favorite actor and I enjoy watching his movies over and over, not something I can say about other more gifted and well thought of actors. He was a beautiful man and had a special quality which was entrancing.

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  18. I've read elsewhere what an atrocious actor Harvey was but never felt that. Maybe some of this was gay bashing, somemof it by gays hating he was closeted, some of it by Jew baiting and upper-class Brit pretension -- which he cut against certainly in Room at the Top. This was an important movie, kitchen sink, angry young men, and as Joe Lambert, Harvey inhabited the part well, his ambiguity and shiftiness very much an attribute. And maybe it did feed into his psyche, dumping on the upper-class young girl and wanting the older Simone Signoret. He was also not bad in Manchurian Candidate, maybe again the older woman (Lansberry) dominating him and his very shallowness perfect givenhe's brainwashed. Casting might be everything.

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  19. I am not concerned about L.H's sexual orientation, nor whether he was much liked/disliked. I am in awe of him as an actor, blessed with one of the most beautiful voices on the screen! I am not an actor, director, producer, therefore it wouldn't be fair for me to throw critic darts at L.H. I consider myself a film conossieur. I enjoy films for various reasons,especially the classics(black & white films).I find them very comforting. I feel blessed to be able to watch the great/greatest actors of their time/generation. I wanted to add L.H. is awfully convincing as a double agent/spy in "A Dandy In Aspic". Please view it if you can. Thank you. Anonymous

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  20. Apparently, Sinatra used to refer to Harvey as "ladyboy"

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  21. Also must add to the chorus--Laurence Harvey WAS a star, and gave some compelling and unforgettable performances. Agreed, he was not popular among his costars and was an obvious narcissist..but Elizabeth Taylor adored him and gave him a job when no one else would, as her husband in Night Watch, when he was dying of cancer in 1972...

    Not that I am a big fan of Harvey either...but his performance in the title role of Manchurian Candidate is indisputably iconic...

    I love your blog, am having so much fun reading!
    -Chris

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    1. "Night Watch"! Couldn't remember the name ~ thank U, angelman66! I started to watch it but had to quit so will have to find it on Netflix or TCM ~ seemed like a good "escapist" movie. Liz Taylor remained a good and faithful friend to Rock Hudson, Laurence Harvey and others, very nice to see. And sorry ~ but I remember Laurence Harvey as being a star (way back when). He had a beautiful voice and several of his performances hold their own for all time. It's a shame he was so difficult with others.

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  22. Incidentally, Harvey died of colon cancer, not stomach cancer.

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  23. Martha Hyer was another detractor of LH. She spoke harshly of him in her biography. The appeared together in A Girl Named Tamiko (1962.)

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  24. Interesting to know all of this. The first movie I saw him in was "Walk on the wild side" and I thought him terrific in that movie. Later on I saw him in "Butterfield 8", "Of human bondage", "Manchurian Candidate", "Summer and Smoke" among others. I thought him quite a good actor and was able to pull off several different accents in his movies. I really had no idea he was gay or that so many of his fellow actors and actresses disliked working with him. I certainly enjoy his performances in the movies and television shows he has been in though.

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  25. Whether he was a nice guy or not, he was a good actor. I had no idea that so many of his fellow actors and actresses disliked working with him so much. He certainly could pull off different accents. Just his work in "Walk on the wild side" proved that! I thought him very handsome and sexy myself.

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    1. Laurence Harvey was an incredibly talented actor and I absolutely adored him. He left an amazing body of work, and he is singlehandedly responsible for the success of The Manchurian Candidate, in the opinion of many. Room at the Top, Darling, Butterfield 8....I could go on and on. Who cares what his peers thought of him? He was flawed just like the rest of us. He left a wonderful film legacy, and that's all that matters...

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  28. "Neither the public, critics nor friends said anything positive about his acting ability."

    Except his Best Actor nomination.

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  29. Oh Lord. Laurence Harvey was very pretty and mesmerizingly talented actor. He put great care into his career. Whether he was a drunken disagreeable whore who cares. Half of actors are anyway. His sexuality is not an issue. Let's be respectful of his wife Pauline and late daughter domino. Thanks to LH for just being. Right. PEACE.

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  30. Laurence Harvey was an incredibly brilliant talented actor who never gave a bad performance. It's amazing how all this negativity about him, mostly posthumous,has been generated apropos his ability. His difficulties in working with him related by other actors is absolutely irrelevant. If this were a factor, 75% or more of actors would be classified as "untalented " and "uninspiring."

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  31. Well, the people that knew him well, worked closely with him, and married him, hated him. He treated his child poor Domino so abhorrently the poor kid grew up in great distress trying to achieve affection from a selfish narcissist not reciprocated. The emotionally induced ponderings of remote and complete strangers, and aroused layman and women alike, often conceived from the artifice of Cinema and television induced trance. Seldom bares any relationship to reality, and why Political figures that lie as if there is no tomorrow, still maintain popularity. It is a sad testimony that negates Evolutions theories we are improving as entities or the Myth we are Rational animals. We are emotionally activated fools by and large.The man was a monster, and you can't wise up a chump, but with a randy chump, it is pointless and not even worth attempting. I bet Eva loved Hitler too. There's one born every minute.

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  32. I imagine Eva did love Hitler. May I ask and should you answer In what capacity and just how well did you know Laurence Harvey and family?

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  33. Lovely and compelling on-screen. Fine voice, always enjoy watching him portray anything. Would never have tagged him as a lousy actor...quite the opposite, in fact.

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  34. All Laurence Harvey owed his audience was a fine performance and that he always gave. I thought he was handsome and enjoyed watching all of his movies. He is one of my favorite actors.

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  35. The Magic Christian entertained and fascinated me when I saw it in 1969 at a movie theater. Neither the movie nor Mr. Harvey are perfect but I was one who enjoyed it as entertainment (unlike some who saw it, entertainment is all I was seeking).

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  36. Fun film by all means!! Ringo!! I do love Laurence Harvey and always will!

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  37. I really liked Laurence Harvey & his acting; he was brilliant regardless of what some thought. I only wish he could have had the opportunity to do more films.....Gone too soon!

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  38. I'm quite surprised that you've include Harvey as a gay/bi man of importance since you have such a negative view if his career. I've admired his acting for decades, but accept it's a matter of taste. His major significance was that his portrait of Joe Lampton in 'Room at the Top' was the first outing of the Angry Young Man that reached the general public. Skilful, original and influential on culture to this day. Ground-breaking.

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    1. I don't think you red all the way to the end of this post. It is not I who had a negative view of his career. It was his peers and biographers, all of them referenced in this post.

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