A Bit of Scarlet

Narrated by Sir Ian McKellan

As LGBT people come further into the mainstream of American life, this compilation of clips from Britain’s post-war cinema archives is a testament to the closeted appearances of LGBT characters and perspectives on sexuality from film’s earliest days.

Following gay characters as they go from being the butt of jokes to full-blown leading men and ladies, “A Bit of Scarlet” captures a playful, occasionally melodramatic insight into on-screen characterizations of LGBT people in early cinema.

Sir Ian McKellen’s narration helps reveal the lengths to which the early film industry went to include—and yet also to ridicule—gay characters. Well-known portraits like John Hurt’s portrayal of Quentin Crisp in the groundbreaking BBC biography join more obscure finds to make for a telling look at British cinema’s postmodern queer soap opera.

What the Critics are Saying

“Entertaining, funny and incisive: a cheering British partner for The Celluloid Closet. It’s Weiss’s skilful cross-editing and effective timing which are most notable.” –Time Out (London)

“Director Andrea Weiss skillfully intercuts film extracts to develop a telling picture celebrating cinematic British gay and lesbian images.” –“Film Choice”, The Independent (London)

“A Bit of Scarlet is an imaginatively constructed, painstakingly assembled and highly amusing montage of gay-themed clichés and stereotypes from 60-odd years of British cinema. A riotously funny and engaging documentary.” –Melbourne Film Festival

Pricing and Viewing Options

Home Use

Selected Festivals, Awards and TV Broadcasts

  • “Best of the Fest” at Edinburgh International Film Festival

  • Best Documentary, Festival de Films de Femmes Paris 1998

  • Berlin International Film Festival

  • Melbourne and Brisbane International Film Festivals

  • Outfest, Los Angeles

  • The New Festival, NYC

  • Audience Award, Melbourne LGBT Film Festival

  • TV Broadcast: Channel Four, UK