Leather Boys, The (1964)

Leather Boys, The (1964)

“I wanna go somewhere! I wanna do something!”

When a motorcyclist (Colin Campbell) and his young girlfriend Dot (Rita Tushingham) have a falling out shortly after their marriage, Reggie (Campbell) moves in with his friend Pete (Dudley Sutton), not realizing Pete is gay.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Homosexuality
  • Marital Problems
  • Motorcyclists
  • Newlyweds
  • Rita Tushingham Films

Canadian director Sidney Furie helmed this adaptation of a novel by Gillian Freeman (written under the pseudonym “Eliot George”) about motorcycle culture and homosexuality in mid-century Britain. Naturally, the book was toned down quite a bit in order to pass censors, with the first portion of the “kitchen sink realism” storyline focusing on Reggie and Dot’s doomed working-class marriage. The couple are so immature and inexperienced that their idea of marital bliss (at least at first) is having privacy for sex, and going to a carnival-like “chalet” where Dot instantly gets her hair dyed blonde after years of her mother telling her not to.

When it becomes clear that the couple have a lot of maturing to do in order to begin to function as co-habiting adults, the narrative shifts towards both motorcycle culture:

… and the friendship subplot between Reggie and Pete. It’s crystal clear to everyone (except apparently Reggie) that Pete is gay, which strains credulity a bit — though Reggie (just like Dot) really is young and naive on every level.

Sutton’s performance as Pete is a stand-out: he conveys depth, longing, and a life filled with camouflage.

It was interesting reading this quote from Sutton on IMDb’s biography page about him:

[My role in Leather Boys] was the breakthrough moment for me but it wasn’t shown very widely because it had a homosexual theme to it. It was a risky part to take, but then I was very political and, although I am not gay myself, I really did care about the trouble my gay friends were having. People were being put in prison, beaten up, blackmailed, so when that job came up I thought, ‘I’m going to play it as a man who is in love, not a flapping, limp-wristed camp thing that everyone can laugh at.’

Indeed, it’s not until the film’s final moments when we see a more cliched and seedy glimpse into the world Pete maneuvers through.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Dudley Sutton as Pete
  • Rita Tushingham and Colin Campbell as the naive young newlyweds
  • Enjoyable motorcycling sequences (particularly when the group rides through Edinburgh)
  • Fine cinematography by Gerald Gibbs

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look for its historical significance in gay cinema.


One thought on “Leather Boys, The (1964)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, though, yes, it is of some interest for its place in gay cinema.

    I don’t agree with this statement: “It’s crystal clear to everyone (except apparently Reggie) that Pete is gay, which strains credulity a bit…”. The only ‘pals’ of Pete that his sexuality is clear to are the ones that we see in the final bar scene. These guys are more flagrantly gay and, though he may be friendly with them on some level, Pete distances himself from them. They’re not close friends. Pete doesn’t really have close friends but he is more comfortable with the bikers who appear more masculine (and straight). That suggests strongly that Pete (who does not come off as gay) is in some kind of denial about his sexuality (which is understandable, given the times) – OR he doesn’t feel that a guy has to be feminine to be gay. At any rate, the depth of his denial isn’t given screen-time. (Nevertheless, Sutton does a fine job with a role that calls for subtlety and gets it.)

    My only other observation is that Tushingham’s character is almost impossible to watch, she’s so abrasive and annoying. It may be a good acting job but she’s almost repugnant as a human being.

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