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With: Zachary Quinto, T.R. Knight, Glenn Close, David Hyde Pierce, Cynthia Nixon, Joan Cassidy, Carl Rizzi
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Josh Howard
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 76
Date: 06/07/2019
IMDB

The Lavender Scare (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Federal Cases

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Josh Howard's deceptively brief, simple documentary covers quite a bit of already-familiar ground, but when it gets to the heart of things, its stories are undeniably enraging, moving, and inspiring.

In The Lavender Scare, we learn that President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the immediate firing of any and all homosexuals from the United States government. This was the early days of the Cold War, in which Americans lived in fear of Communist infiltrators. It was decided that they could be too easily swayed to give up important information.

For decades, until the order was rescinded in 1995, gays and lesbians were persecuted, hounded, questioned, arrested, and forced out of work. It wasn't until an incident at the Stonewall Inn, and until a man named Dr. Franklin E. Kameny lost his position as an astronomer that real change began to take place.

Experts interviewed in The Lavender Scare explain the problem with looking back at this shameful part of history; the men and women accused of being gay and lesbian frequently disappeared, choosing to avoid persecution. "They had you over a barrel," one man says, sadly. So there are relatively few subjects on record. One woman, Joan Cassidy, had her dream career in the Navy Reserve, and was being considered for admiral. She would have been the first woman to achieve that rank, but she decided to turn it down for fear of being discovered.

A man, Carl Rizzi, lost his job at the U.S. Postal Service after being photographed in drag. But when the seemingly fearless Kameny — a great interviewee who was luckily captured on film before he passed away in 2011 — began writing letters and organizing protests, there was finally hope.

The Lavender Scare can't avoid going over subjects like Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts and the Stonewall riots, already covered in many other films, and the voices of name actors (Glenn Close, David Hyde Pierce, etc.) don't add much. But it's shocking to learn how this sinister chapter in American history was allowed to go on for so long, so quietly. And it's essential information to have today.

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