The Boys in the Band is a classic of gay cinema, in which a birthday party amongst gay friends gets complicated when a heterosexual male friend accidentally joins. Michael (Kenneth Nelson) is a recovering alcoholic who’s planning the birthday party for Harold (Leonard Frey). Donald (Frederick Combs) arrives early to help set up, when Alan (Peter White) calls Michael and says that he needs to see him urgently. Michael is hesitant to agree, given that Alan is heterosexual and unprepared for what might happen at this party, but says okay anyway.
The other guests arrive, and Alan calls to say that he won’t be coming after all, allowing the party to really get started. All of a sudden, Alan shows up anyway, very surprised at what lies in wait inside this apartment. “Cowboy”, a male hustler that’s been presented to Harold as a gift, arrives, and Alan becomes infuriated, to the point of attacking one of the other guests. This puts Michael to the drink again, as he ponders on what he believes to be Alan’s closeted sexuality and decides to play a game to put it to the test, where everyone must call the one person they truly believe they have loved. When Alan calls his wife, rather than an old college friend as Michael suspected, he’s forced to face the truth, and the party comes to a close, with little having changed.
“The partygoers are caught in the tragedy of the pre-liberation closet, a more crippling and unforgiving one than the closets that remain.”
— Bill Weber, Slant Magazine
“William Friedkin, the director, has transferred the play’s consciously archaic theatricality so faithfully to the screen—with the original Off Broadway cast, and almost every line of bitchy, fake-elegant dialogue, intact. Friedkin, was not hired to improve The Boys in the Band, but to preserve it..”
— Vincent Canby, The New York Times
Did You Know?
The Boys in the Band is based on an off-Broadway production and features all of the original actors from that performance. The film is still considered an important milestone in the history of gay cinema, although the stereotypes portrayed are negatively evocative to many in the community today. Review our Gay Themed Films Here