Perks of the Trade will look at the varied filmography of Anthony Perkins, the queer performer forever associated with Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest onscreen psycho, Norman Bates..
While certainly a close cousin to the crazed Norman Bates, the role that immortalized him, Anthony Perkins’ take on Sean McAvoy, a tortured high fashion photographer, in 1975’s gloriously enjoyable Mahogany, is initially full of subtle traces of humor and a true sense of professional calm. Of course, as McAvoy’s obsession with Diana Ross’ upwardly climbing Tracey Chambers reaches its peak, Perkins commits to the character’s wild eyed bouts of frenzy with vigorous aplomb
This dedication to his craft is notable as Perkins, reportedly, was looking forward to playing a much more regulated persona and wanted to avoid any hysterical scare screen tactics when it came to the role. But a changing of the guard behind the scenes – director Tony Richardson was replaced by Motown founder & first time filmmaker Berry Gordy early on in the process – forced him to acquiesce to a more anticipated, Grand Guignol approach to the character. Decades later, fans of cinematic camp have to concede that Gordy’s desire to have the actor indulge in blearily erotic actions, such as wrestling a swarthy Billy Dee Williams for control of a pistol towards the film’s climax, surely enhanced the film’s long term cinematic viability – no matter how it might have hurt Perkins’ further career goals at the time.
Interestingly, for critics compelled to look at the real life personal dynamics involved, McAvoy also seems to represent some of Perkins’ personal struggles. Well known as a practicing (almost hedonistic) homosexual in entertainment circles since his summer stock days. Perkins had recently married and begun a life as a devoted father around the time of the filming of this project. Thus, his seemingly gay celluloid creation’s desire to possess Ross’ high fashion lass seems to have played a fitting, if murderously over-the-top, counterpoint to his own personal life.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!