Everything you need to know about 1969 film The Gay Deceivers, as resurfaced clip goes viral

A clip from the camp 1969 American comedy film The Gay Deceivers has resurfaced and gone viral, with social media eating it up.

A post on X/Twitter on Saturday (6 July) included the clip with the caption “I still quote this sometimes.” The tweet has now been viewed nearly seven million times. The clip shows two men, one of whom is screaming abuse at a woman who just walked over his flower bed, calling her a “dirty b***h”.

This film was directed by Bruce Kessler, best-known for his work on top TV series of the time, such as Mission: Impossible, It Takes a Thief and The Monkeys, as well as host of hugely popular programmes of the 70s and 80s.

The film’s story follows two straight men trying to avoid being drafted into the army during the Vietnam War by pretending to be gay.

“They had to keep their hands off girls in order to keep the army’s hands off them,” the film’s tagline reads.

During their faux queer journey, Danny, played by Kevin Coughlin, who appeared aged 13 in Stanley Kramer’s Oscar-winning The Defiant Ones, and Elliot (Lawrence Casey, who went on to have small roles in soaps Falcon Crest and Knots Landing) meet their landlords, gay couple Malcolm (Michael Greer) and Craig (Sebastian Brook, who appeared uncredited in Rosemary’s Baby).

You may like to watch

Viral clip of The Gay Deceivers

The landlords’ almost hysterical flamboyance is made explicitly clear in a scene about flowers.

In the clip that has gone viral, Malcolm (played by Greer) is hanging out the window as he yells: “You dirty b***h, look what you’ve done to my peonies” as a woman, who, apparently has just slept with Elliot, tramples over his precious flower bed.

“They’re marigolds,” she shouts back.

“Good God, I think she’s right!” Craig exclaims.

“I may not know my flowers, but I know a b***h when I see one,” Malcolm responds – throwing some iconic shade that wouldn’t be out of place in the Drag Race werk room.

Is The Gay Deceivers homophobic?

Sebastian Brook, Brooke Bundy, Lawrence P. Casey, Kevin Coughlin, and Michael Greer in The Gay Deceivers.
The Gay Deceivers is the film behind the viral clip. (IMDb)

Although the film is now doing the rounds on social media, it is considered rather homophobic

Greer, who was gay, is said to have tried to shape his character Malcom in a way that minimises negative gay tropes. It’s debatable to what extent this was achieved. 

The film may now hold a 29 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes, but, according to the AFI Catalog, it “was listed among the top 50 highest-grossing releases between 30 July 1969 and 17 December 1969.”

“Stereotyped portrayals of homosexual men”

The Motion Picture Association of America, the US association responsible for the film-rating system, gave it an “R” which, at the time, meant it was “suitable for adults, with reservations”.

Explaining the rating, the AFI Catalog says: “Some might take offence to sequences set in a gay bar, or to stereotyped portrayals of homosexual men”.

Demonstrations by members of the Committee for the Freedom of Homosexuals, in San Francisco, were reported when the film was first released.

One protestor was quoted as saying the film “flaunts every sickening prejudice and misconception” about gay men, including the lack of “manliness and patriotism”.

The New York Times review in 1969 pointed out that the film “which struggles with the comparatively new movie twist of feigned homosexuality as a draft-dodging gimmick, is, unfortunately, neither gay nor deceptive”.

One-sheet movie poster advertises The Gay Deceivers. The film starred Kevin Couglin, Lawrence Casey, and Brooke Bundy.
The Gay Deceivers opened in 1969 to mixed reviews. (John Kisch Archive/Getty)

Were there any authentic gay undertones?

Malcom and Craig take Danny and Elliot under their wing, believing they are a gay couple, and saying that they remind them of themselves in their youth.

As the film continues, and the pair have to keep up the gay pretence, a queer underlying narrative seems to apply to Elliot.

One could read the film as being about Elliot’s journey from closeted man questioning his sexuality to an individual who becomes comfortable and happy in a gay relationship. Throughout the film, his relationships with women prove disastrous; he also goes to a gay bar alone after a fight with Danny.

Where to watch The Gay Deceivers

The Gay Deceivers is available to stream on Prime Video, if you want to make up your own mind about it.

Please login or register to comment on this story.