Shoulder Arms (1918), What Price Glory (1926), Wings (1927): How Silent War Films Discuss Homosexuality and Gender Representations During World War One

  • Clémentine Tholas


Clémentine Tholas investigates the issue of homosexuality in the silent war films of World War One. Tholas is interested in the way that these films present issues of gender relationships and friendships as well as homosexuality at a moment when the latter was punished by the US army and viewed as a social threat. Using these films to investigate how Hollywood imagined life on the front lines for soldiers, Tholas notes the displays of male emotion, love, friendships, and femininity within. Accordingly, she discovers that these films tend to reassert a patriarchal and misogynistic vision or masculinity and gender roles. At the same time, they portray the various kinds of male and maternal love, virile friendships and physical desire that can reflect, and effect, social transformation.

Works Cited

  1. Berube, Allan. Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.Google Scholar
  2. Bourke, Joanna. Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War. London: Reaktion Books, 1996.Google Scholar
  3. Bourke, Joanna. “Gender Roles in Killing Zones.” In The Cambridge History of the First World War: Volume III, Civil Society, edited by Jay Winter, 153–77. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  4. Canaday, Margot. Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth Century America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chambers, John Whiteclay. The Oxford Companion to American Military History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  6. Crouthamel, Jason. “Sexuality, Sexual Relations, Homosexuality.” In International Encyclopedia of the First World War, edited by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, 2014 [online].
  7. Das, Santanu. “Kiss Me Hardy: The Dying Kiss in the First World War Trenches.” In The Kiss in History, edited by Karen Harvey, 166–86. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
  8. Das, Santanu. “The Dying Kiss: Gender and Intimacy in the Trenches of World War.” In World War One Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings, 2012 [online].
  9. DeAngelis, Michael. Reading the Bromance: Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  10. Donald, Ralph, and Karen MacDonald. Reel Men at War: Masculinity and the American War film. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  11. Dyer, Richard. “Don’t Look Now: The Male Pin-Up.” In The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality, edited by John Caughie and Annette Kuhn, 265–67. New York: Routledge, 1992.Google Scholar
  12. Eberwein, Robert. Armed Forces: Masculinity and Sexuality in the American War Film. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  13. Grayzel, Susan. “Men and Women at Home.” In The Cambridge History of the First World War: Volume III, Civil Society, edited by Jay Winter, 96–120. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  14. Higgonet, Margaret R. “At the Front.” In The Cambridge History of the First World War: Volume III, Civil Society, edited by Jay Winter, 121–52. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  15. Mellen, Joan. Big Bad Wolves: Masculinity and the American Film. New York: Pantheon, 1977.Google Scholar
  16. Mullen, John. The Show Must Go On: Popular Song in Britain During World War One. Farnham: Ashgate, 2005.Google Scholar
  17. Neale, Steve. “Masculinity as Spectacle.” In The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality, edited by John Caughie and Annette Kuhn, 277–90. New York: Routledge, 1992.Google Scholar
  18. Nyop, Christopher, and William Frederick Harvey. The Kiss and Its History. New York: Dutton, 1902.Google Scholar
  19. Robb, George. British Culture and the First World War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.Google Scholar
  20. Russo, Vito. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. New York: Harper Row, 1981.Google Scholar
  21. Spencer, Colin. Histoire de l’homosexualité: De l’antiquité à nos jours. Paris: Agora, 1995.Google Scholar
  22. Tamagne, Florence. Mauvais Genre? Une Histoire des représentations de l’homosexualité. Paris: Éditions La Martinière, 2001.Google Scholar
  23. Tamagne, Florence. A History of Homosexuality in Europe, Volume I. New York: Algora Publishing, 2007.Google Scholar
  24. Veray, Laurent. La Grande Guerre au cinéma, de la gloire et la mémoire. Paris: Ramsay, 2008.Google Scholar
  25. Virgili, Fabrice, and Danièle Voldman. La Garçonne et l’assassin: Histoire de Louise et de Paul, déserteur travesti, dans le Paris des années folles. Paris: Payot et Rivages, 2001.Google Scholar


  1. Civilization. Directed by Thomas H. Ince. United States, 1916.Google Scholar
  2. Hearts of the World. Directed by David W. Griffith. United States, 1916.Google Scholar
  3. Johanna Enlists. Directed by William Desmond Taylor. United States, 1918.Google Scholar
  4. Shoulder Arms. Directed by Charles Chaplin. United States, 1918.Google Scholar
  5. The Big Parade. Directed by King Vidor. United States, 1925.Google Scholar
  6. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Directed by Rex Ingram. United States, 1921.Google Scholar
  7. The Little American. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille. United States. 1917.Google Scholar
  8. What Price Glory. Directed by Raoul Walsh. United States, 1926.Google Scholar
  9. Wings. Directed by William A. Wellman. United States, 1927.Google Scholar
  10. Yankee Doodle in Berlin. Directed by Richard Jones. United States, 1919.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clémentine Tholas
    • 1
  1. 1.Sorbonne Nouvelle UniversityParisFrance

Personalised recommendations