Calamity Jane (1953): David Butler’s Western Comedy, Starring Doris Day and Howard Keel (LGBTQ Lesbian)

Warner assigned David Butler to do their own version of “Annie Get Your Gun,” in which Doris Day plays Calamity Jane and Howard Keel is Wild Bill Hickock.
Our grade: B- (**1/2 out of *****)

Famous singer Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins) is in Chicago, about to be brought to town by Calamity Jane (Day). Wild Bill Hickok (Keel) laughs at the idea and tells Calamity that the night Adams steps on stage, he will come to the opening dressed as a Sioux squaw lugging a papoose.

Calamity travels to Chicago, where Adams is giving a farewell performance (just before heading to Europe.  Disenchanted with the ‘primitive’ Chicago, Adelaide gives the costumes to her maid, Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie), who dreams of becoming a singer. Katie tries on one of the dresses and starts to sing. When Calamity walks in, she mistakes Katie for Adelaid, and the former poses as Adelaid so that she could fulfill her dream.  Soon a special friendship develops between the feminine femme and the butch one (Day, sans makeup, wearing chaps and boots, with her hair pulled back).

When Bill finds Calamity’s gun under her wedding dress, she jokes it’s just in case any more actresses roll in from Chicago.
The movie end happily with a double wedding, and the two couples riding out of town on the stage, after the always-sunny Day performs the famous song, “Secret Love,” which was a huge hit beyond that picture.
In this fictionalized musical Western, Jane and Hickok are portrayed as lovers, though in real life they were merely acquaintances.  However, when she died decades after Hickok, friends buried her beside him at her request.
Gay Text and/or Subtext
Over the year, Calamity Jane has become a favorite among female and lesbian viewers for its depiction of the Doris Day character as aggressive and butch–a gay icon. Moreover, not only Is Jane a strong and independent woman, but she bonds with her pal and rival Katie Brown (played by Allyn Ann McLerie), sharing a house with her, and the two of painting “Calam and Katie” in a heart on its door.
For their part, gay male viewers single out the film’s Oscar-winning song, “Secret Love,” as some sort of a secret gay anthem.  The rendition of another song, “Hive Full of Honey,” was problematic, too, when submitted to the Production Code.  The Hays Office ruled: “The man (played by Dick Wesson) can be timid and shy, but for obvious reasons, should not be excessively effeminate.”
The movie is now almost regularly programmed in international gay and lesbian film festivals.
 
Oscar Nominations: 3
 
Song: “Secret Love,” music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.
Scoring of a Musical Picture: Ray Heindorf
Sound Recording: William A. Mueller
Oscar Awards: 1
 
Song
 
Oscar Context:
 
The Scoring Oscar went to Alfred Newman for “Call Me Madame,” and the Sound Oscar to “From Here to Eternity,” which swept most of the Oscars, including Best Picture.
 
Running time: 97 Minutes
 
Release date: November 7, 1953
Commercial appeal:
The movie was successful at the box-office, solidifying Doris Day as a movie star and a singer.

Cast
Doris Day as Calamity Jane
Howard Keel as Wild Bill Hickok
Allyn Ann McLerie as Katie Brown
Philip Carey as Lt. Daniel Gilmartin
Dick Wesson as Francis Fryer
Paul Harvey as Henry Miller
Chubby Johnson as Rattlesnake
Gale Robbins as Adelaid Adams