gay characters classic movies

Have You Heard These Code Words for Gays in Classic Movies?2 min read

Gay characters have appeared in films since the invention of the motion picture

Gay scene in “Call Her Savage” (1932)

Up until the 1970s, screen writers used various euphemisms or codes to describe gay male characters. Gay characters were mostly featured as as something to laugh at, pity, or even to fear.

Many bad guys throughout film history and even in Disney movies, feature villains with stereotypically gay characteristics.


In a hundred years of movies, homosexuality has only rarely been depicted on the screen. When it did appear, it was there as something to laugh at—or something to pity—or even something to fear. These were fleeting images, but they were unforgettable, and they left a lasting legacy. Hollywood, that great maker of myths, taught straight people what to think about gay people… and gay people what to think about themselves. — Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet

Gay characters weren’t called out as as such, but instead referred to be the following code words.

Code words for gay characters in classic movies:

A boy from Eton

A fluent swimmer

A gentleman of the piers

A keen-eyed birdwatcher

A man with specific mannerisms

A perplexment

A real jackdaw

A skillful mountain climber

A sunset lover

Always rings twice

An aesthete

An evening botanist

An upside-down chimney-sweep

Avowed bachelor

Born with the caul

Built on an uncertain foundation

Classically athletic

Curious

Eccentric

Elegant

Extraordinary

Fluttersome

Fond of his mother

Fraternally-minded

Gives a careful handshake

Gives too much change for a dollar

Has a silk bathrobe

He hitchhikes instead of taking the bus

He throws a party with an open guest list

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In the way of uncles Inconsistent

Limber Not quite up-to-code

Rides the carousel

Salutes another flag

Sleeps diagonally

Smooth elbows

Son of the moon

Stays ahead of the game

Wears a hat of someone else’s choosing

Wears a light wristwatch

Know some more gay code words from classic movies not listed here? Let us know.