March 25, 2020 at 8:21 pm EDT | by Kathi Wolfe
Turn to the movies to escape coronavirus
COVID-19 anxiety, gay news, Washington Blade
Bette Davis in ‘All About Eve.’ (Image courtesy Twentieth Century Studios)

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says in the “Wizard of Oz.”

Who doesn’t feel like Dorothy these days? The coronavirus has wreaked so much havoc, we don’t know what hit us. Only that we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.

There’s no escaping this scary, six-feet-apart new normal. Yet, I find myself looking for some comfort, diversion and connection. As has happened for me at other difficult times in my life, this search has led me to the movies. Especially, classic movies. Thanks to streaming, even stuck at home, I can hang out with Margo Channing, join Dorothy and her pals in Oz and check out Alfred Hitchcock’s soirees.

I’m far from alone in turning to movies for consolation, commiseration and laughter. Especially, among LGBTQ people. As it’s often been said, Hollywood wouldn’t exist without us.

Tinsel Town classics from “Now Voyager” to “Pillow Talk” are embedded in the DNA of many of us in the queer community. Their divas from Bette to Judy, camp, music, wit, and, sometimes, even uplift, have kept our spirits alive during times of unspeakable pain and terror.

During the height of the AIDS epidemic, I visited a close friend quite ill with AIDS in a New York City hospital. I knew it was likely the last time I’d see him and thought we’d say a tearful good-bye. Instead, we laughed as we recited our favorite lines from “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” “Blanche, you aren’t ever going to sell this house and you aren’t ever gonna leave it,” was the last thing my buddy said to me.

Recently, I FaceTimed with a friend from the United Kingdom. She’s in her 70s and has underlying health conditions. You’d think that she would have talked about her worries about getting sick or her problems with getting food while living under a lockdown. Instead, her first words to me were, “It’s about time the piano realized it has not written the concerto!” from “All About Eve.”

Whether you’re 18 or 80, if you want to lockdown your COVID-19 anxiety (at least for 2 hours, 18 minutes) watch “All About Eve.” The iconic 1950 film (starring Bette Davis, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) is streaming on Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu. From Margo Channing warning us to fasten our seatbelts to Addison DeWitt, “Eve,” one of the queerest movies ever made, will take you far, far away from the coronavirus crisis. To enrich your momentary escape from COVID-19 worry, check out the riveting book about “All About Eve” by Sam Stagg.

Bette is fab! But, I’m also turning to other divas during this pandemic. Who, more than Judy, gives us more resilience to keep going – even as our world seems about to end? I feel reassured as I watch “The Wizard of Oz” at home alone, missing my friends and fam. I know that there will be hard, gray times ahead, but that there will be technicolor further on down the road. “‘Oz’ is streaming on several platforms, including YouTube, iTunes and Amazon.

COVID-19’s made me hungry for murder, suspense, witty dialogue and gorgeous hats. I’ve found all this and more in Hitchcock movies from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to “Rear Window” to “Rope.” I held my breath as Doris Day tried to reach her kidnapped young son by singing “Que Sera, Sera.” Thelma Ritter’s wisecracks in “Rear Window” made me laugh out loud. I drank a glass of bubbly as the impeccably dressed guests bantered at the party thrown in the swanky mid-century apartment of the cold-blooded murderers in “Rope.” These Hitchcock films are streaming on Amazon Prime.

If you have recommendations for movies to help us cope with the coronavirus, Tweet me @UppityBlindGirl.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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