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  Christine Jorgensen Story, The Sex And The Glands
Year: 1970
Director: Irving Rapper
Stars: John Hansen, Joan Tompkins, Quinn K. Redeker, John Himes, Ellen Clark, Rod McCary, Will Kuluva, Oscar Beregi Jr, Lynn Harper, Trent Lehman, Pamelyn Ferdin, Bill Erwin, Joyce Meadows, Sandra Scott, Elaine Joyce, Don Pierce
Genre: BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Famously as the world's first widely publicised male to female transsexual, Christine Jorgensen (John Hansen) didn't start out a woman, as she was born George Jorgensen Jr, though as a child he knew he wasn't quite like the other boys, preferring to play with his sister's dolls and hopscotch with the girls rather than rough and tumble games of football. His father was sure he would grow up to be just like dad, get a job in the construction industry and settle down with a good woman, but it did not turn out that way, for once he had become an adult, George was increasingly certain that nature had him confused about his gender - but what could he do?

The real Christine Jorgensen had a very interesting life, outlined in her bestselling books which formed the basis for the inevitable film version, but if the makers were hoping for a sympathetic audience they were disappointed, with pretty much everyone agreeing that their interpretation of the facts, loose as they were, was ripe for derision. So it came to pass that this became one of those camp classics where you could chortle at the sight of star Hansen, who was significantly broader in his frame than Christine, looking more like a transvestite than a transsexual, and once he started wearing the dresses the effect was nothing short of ludicrous.

The first half of the movie detailed the fictionalised version of how George came to terms with his condition and sought medical treatment for it. In real life, his genitals were undeveloped which is what prompted him to have the operation to have them removed, then later turned by surgery into a vagina, but you get nothing of that here, and if you didn't know the background George appeared here to be a homosexual man who simply wanted to change his sex because he'd got it into his head that he'd be better off that way, rather than it being a medical solution to a physical issue. Needless to say, that was not the only problem the film had in relating the tale.

The director was Irving Rapper, and for all the frank talk of gender realignment he approached this in the same way that he had his women's pictures of yesteryear with Bette Davis, with Christine absurdly cast in the role of one of those nobly suffering stars, unlucky in love, but still managing to look glamorous. It was as if those days of swooning melodrama had never gone away, and given the state of Hollywood cinema in 1970 - turmoil, basically - this was less appropriate and more farcically out of date, so if it had not been for the subject matter the production appeared like an outrageous anachronism. Thuddingly overearnest with the sensitivity it obviously yearned for way outside its ambitions, it's no wonder the hardy few who caught this laughed so much, lowering it to the level of Glen or Glenda? where Edward D. Wood Jr had presented his own take on the tale.

Take the operation itself, here represented as one simple act of pioneering surgery for Christine, but also causing her great mental anguish so as she is under the anaesthetic we see images of Hansen running in slow motion along a beach at night looking tormented, failing to catch a very large football, and jumping over a pier into the sea, all with red-tinted whirlpool effects. Quite how this was supposed to increase the layman's understanding of what the actual subject went through was obscure, but that wasn't the half of it. Once she's a woman, Christine's hair grows to shoulder length overnight and her voice goes up a few octaves, which Rapper solved by electronically treating Hansen's tones: it's not quite Alvin and the Chipmunks, but it's not far off. Throw in Quinn K. Redecker as the manly journalist who wants to write about Christine and becomes the love interest, and you had a well-meaning but hopelessly misguided effort which turned into the kind of joke Christine suffered with commendable good humour for the rest of her life. Music by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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