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Word Count: 3,817
Historians have traced homosexual imagery to the very start of American cinema with the Thomas Edison film The Gay Brothers 1895 directed by William Dickson in which two men dance together Female impersonators and women playing male roles both fixtures in late-19th-century vaudeville and theater began appearing in split- and one-reel films of the 1900s Today this work can seem more overtly gay or lesbian than it did in its time when the notion of homosexual desire was more strictly taboo -- despite the frequency of gender disguises and same-sex bonding in popular entertainment By the teens however American comedies were relying on the audiences recognition of homosexual types In Algie The Miner 1912 a one-reeler produced by Alice Guy-Blach Billy Quirk was a sissy who wants to become a cowboy Quirk also played a fop in the two-reeler The Barber 1918 in which the Chaplin imitator Billy West styles his hair with girlish ribbons Behind The Screen 1916 has the real Chaplin kissing Edna Purviance when shes disguised as a boy big bully Eric Campbell spots them and starts swishing about mocking what he thinks are two gay lovers until Chaplin wallops him In the five-reel A Florida Enchantment 1914 directed by Sidney Drew Edith Storey eats a magic seed that changes ones gender and she turns into a pants-wearing woman-chaser in a sly performance of masculine comportment and attitude Drew who also starred tries a seed himself and is soon mincing about with the trademark sissy mannerisms When he dresses as a woman an angry mob runs him off a pier and into the ocean -- at which time Storey awakens from her dream In the 1920s Stan Laurel showed a penchant for sissy humor in his solo two-reelers The Soilers 1923 his send-up of the rugged actioner The Spoilers includes a femme gay cowboy who adores the macho men around him Laurel himself was the sissy creating consternation in With Love And
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