Posted by: detourmag on April 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm

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Dinah East (Gene Nash, 1970)

Released the same year as Michael Sarne’s Myra Breckinridge, this is a lower rent but far more successful interpretation of similar themes. The film opens with aging starlet Dinah East dying in the back of her limousine. When a lecherous mortician takes an opportunity to see a Hollywood luminary naked (some things never change), he discovers that Ms. East had been living with a secret — she was actually a man. Shockwaves ripple through the media as well as East’s loved ones.

Told via a series of flashbacks, Dinah East has a similar structure to Citizen Kane with Dinah’s penis serving as her “Rosebud.” Viewers are introduced to her lovers, male and female, her adopted son, and others whose lives she touched. (East is played somewhat convincingly by Jeremy Stockwell.) Along the way there’s ample opportunity for softcore sex scenes, bump-n-grind musical tracks, and flaccid full frontal male nudity.

Written and directed by Gene Nash, Dinah East vacillates schizophrenically between touching drama and cheesy sexploitation. (Some bootleg versions of the film even remove a half-hour of the drama in favor of a tighter, sleazier, cut.) With a larger budget, better acting, and less clunky dialogue (“I pray to God you’ve had a man, so you can compare…”), Dinah East might have been a far more effective and groundbreaking study in gender politics. As it is, Nash’s film is most notable for allegedly having been attacked by Mae West for defamation of character. This stems from a rumor that the ball-busting starlet once had a pair of her own, but apart from their latitudinal monikers, few similarities exist between the real and fictional starlets. (Despite the rarity of the print, TLA Video released a complete, albeit muddy, version of Dinah East to DVD in mid-2007.) — Mike White

[tags]Dinah East, Jeremy Stockwell, Myra Breckinridge, Mae West, Gene Nash[/tags]

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