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Fall of '55, The

Seth Randal 2006 82 min. USA
Educational DVD Price $295.00

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In the fall of 1955, a gay sex scandal erupted in the unassuming, wholesome and "vice-less" town of Boise, Idaho, as teenage boys who had prostituted themselves to older men began to disclose their dalliances to authorities. Overnight, Boise's same-sex underworld, comprised mostly of married family men, was splashed onto headlines and thrust into the spotlight. Reputations were shattered and lives ruined as the rumors and accusations flew. What followed was a classic witch-hunt, marked by intense homophobic hysteria, in which the whole town became embroiled.

Seth Randal's gripping documentary provides unique insights into the pre-Stonewall gay experience as well as 1950s America's struggle with the issue of homosexuality and the prevailing myth that it was a cancer that could be spread to the youth. Interesting parallels are also drawn with the era of McCarthyism, during which fear and paranoia supplanted rational thought, and the federal government began its own purge of gays (one that continues to this day in our military).

The film raises many questions that prove difficult even today: With the accusers ranging in age from 15 to 22, at what age did their accusations of sexual corruption become simple hypocrisy? What kinds of behavior were immoral? How far should the community have gone to protect the youth? Who were the victims, and who were the exploited? In Boise, more than fifty years later, opinions are still deeply divided.

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American Studies
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Randal, Seth