The Glory That Is Myra Breckinridge

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Others will tell you Myra Breckinridge is a waste of your time. I'm here to say it's not.

Others will tell you Michael Sarne's film is a 'trainwreck'. But no matter who 'these others' are, I can tell you they are dead wrong.

"Myra Breckinridge is a dish, and never forget it, you motherfuckers, as the children say nowadays."

The film Myra Breckinridge, based on the 1968 novel by Gore Vidal, was released in 1970. This film has been called many derogatory names, but Gracie likes to call it wonderful, fabulous, ahead of its time, and a cheeky little monkey.

In the film Raquel Welch plays Myra, the alter ego or the 'true' persona of homosexual film critic Myron Breckinridge (Rex Reed) a la sex change operation. She leaves New York for Hollywood where she's going to claim Myron's inheritance from Uncle Buck Loner (John Huston), the owner of the Buck Loner Academy. Not only is the academy a third-rate acting school ~ extremely offensive to a film critic and fan ~ but Uncle Buck is a traditional old man, full of dirty thoughts and sexist beliefs. Getting respect, let alone the money isn't going to be easy...

This only fuels Myra's real goal: "The destruction of the last vestigial traces of traditional manhood in the race in order to realign the sexes, thus reducing population while increasing human happiness and preparing humanity for its next stage."

Other prominent characters, aptly displaying more sexist roles, are:

Letitia Van Allen (played by Mae West) a talent agent who represents only men only ~ complete with casting couch err, bed: "That bed has held just about every stud in town who wants to be an actor."

Mary Ann Pringle (Farrah Fawcett) plays the classic beautiful but a bit dumb blonde who has traditional 'female' views on love, sex and marriage. As the All-American-Woman, she's in love with Rusty Godowsky (Roger Herren), the All-American-Male.

Rusty's beefcake, brainless, homophobic, and like a magnificent bull, prone to bouts of reactionary impulses.

Here's a clip in which you can see and hear all the gender roles and sexist thought:

The rest of the plot centers around Myra's ability to charm and force men and women alike to do her bidding. She must split up Mary Ann and Rusty, for Myra sees Rusty as the sacrificial bull who must be brought to his knees, and battle with Uncle Buck for her piece of the family pie.

Raquel Welch in Myra Breckinridge

Under the guise of treating Rusty's injured back, Myra creates her chance.

Rusty: "You're playing some kind of joke on me, I know you are. You're playing some kind of joke!"

Myra: "This is no joke, Rusty. I'm deadly earnest. You have a lot to learn. All you men have a lot to learn... and I have taken it upon myself to teach you."

Rusty: "What do you mean?"

Myra: "This is the most important part of your education. The part your teachers failed to instruct you in."

Myra says she needs to take a tracing of his spine and his temperature, so she straps him to a table...

Myra: "What nature intended is not always good for us, Rusty. You think that being a man is such a simple thing. 'A man should ball chicks', you said. Well, I've tried to explain it to you, but I'm afraid it will require a practical demonstration."

She reaches for something off-screen...

Myra: "I won't kill you, Rusty. I'll just educate you. You and the rest of America. Must I demonstrate it to you practically, that there is no such thing as manhood. It died with Burt Lancaster in Vera Cruz. Your manhood was taken by Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. I'm only going to apply you with the finishing touches!"

Watch Raquel, as Myra, ride her cowboy!

When she's done, Rusty asks, "Can I go now?"

To which Myra replies, "Well, aren't you going to thank me for all the trouble I've taken?" Rusty does.

Afterwards, Myra says, "Only through a traumatic shock, through terrifying and humiliating him, could I hope to change his view of what is proper masculine behavior. To keep him from breeding, and so adding to the world's overpopulation, I was forced to violate everything he has been taught to regard as sacred, including the sanctity of his tiny back door..."

This is not quite where the story ends (we'll continue that below, for those that dare to know), but here's where I'd like to make some points about the film.

Aside from exploring ideas of society, sex, gender and orientation ~ not to mention a hot female domination scene ~ Myra Breckinridge is a clever film.

Interspersed with the story are vintage Hollywood film clips. These clips underscore the camp level of this film, yes, but oh so much more. The inserted bits of old film signify Myra's obsession with classic film and serve a running commentary on the plot. Cuts to 'bombs bursting in air' even while Raquel rapes Rusty with a giant (implied) dildo seems to deliver the mixed messages that society in general does deliver about sex.

The dialog, said to be quite true to the novel, is fast and witty. Listen closely and be amazed!

True enough, Raquel scantily-clad and riding her resistant cowboy with a large dildo could be enough to make me love this film. (Hell, scantily-clad Raquel could make me recommend any film.) Double the points for this being 1970. But when you add up all the wonders of this film, this story, how can you not love it?

Perhaps if you need your film spoon-fed to you... If you dislike ellipses (and parenthetical remarks), dislike running character monologues, and don't want to think a bit, then this film isn't for you. (But then, I wonder, how you like SK? Or any blog, for that matter.)

Stay up late and watch Myra Breckinridge on cable ~ or better yet, get the DVD. That way you can invite folks over and blow their minds. Invite me; I'll bring the wine and Cheetos.

~~~

What follows is all spoiler, kids. So you've been warned!

The aftermath of Rusty's rape is that Rusty completely abandons Mary Ann and brutally transfers his rage to the nymphomaniac Van Allen: "I thought, Myra, that he would kill me. I have never known anyone so masterful. He threw me on the bed and struck me repeatedly. Yes, struck Letitia Van Allen who never goes that route but did this time. I'm still black and blue and totally happy, all thanks to you!"

But soon Van Allen tires of being black & blue. She gets Rusty a major acting contract and agrees to see him in only a professional way. This is fine with Rusty, who we now believe has indeed been freed of his homophobia ~ and goes off to pursue his homosexual tendencies.

Mary Ann (whom the Myron or 'male part' of Myra adores), doesn't really change in this film, but rather Myra moves from detesting and laughing at her, to caring for her. Thus, Myra herself learns as well as teaches.

Myra eventually gets Uncle Buck to submit as well, but on her way to cash out, Myron runs her over...

Myron wakes up in the hospital where a nurse who looks just like Mary Ann, smiles shyly at him.

All just a dream? Perhaps.

Myron drifts off thinking of Myra again... Would he like to go back, or just let her live in some tucked-away corner of his mind? We are left to guess.

Review by Gracie.

 

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