On this day: Janet Gaynor & Hollywood’s lavender marriages

janet gaynor lavender marriages
Janet Gaynor and husbands Jess Lydell Peck, Adrian, and Paul Gregory

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the ‘Big 5’ studios relentlessly propagandised a heterosexual ideal and demanded their stars conform. Actors wanting to succeed in the system entered ‘lavender marriages’ with either sympathetic or unwitting spouses. Lesbian or bisexual star Janet Gaynor, who died September 14, 1984, married three reputedly gay men during her life.

One of the biggest box office draws of the late silent movie era, Janet Gaynor successfully transitioned to talkies. She won the first Oscar for Best Actress and later starred in the original A Star is Born.

But she was reputedly either bisexual or a lesbian. Rumours of homosexuality made Hollywood actors box office poison. However, earlier stars devised a workaround: unions of marital convenience — lavender marriages.

Rudolph Valentino, the most famous leading man of all time, killed rumours that he was bisexual by marrying his costume designer, Natacha Rambova. Poet and playwright Mercedes de Acosta wrote later that Valentino’s and Rambova’s relationship was purely platonic.

Despite gossip, there’s no evidence Natacha Rambova was a lesbian, merely a sympathetic friend. But in Janet Gaynor’s case, it appears she and her husbands provided cover for each other. Her second husband, legendary costume designer Adrian, was openly gay before their marriage.

In the thirties, before her marriage to Adrian, Janet was linked to co-star Margaret Lindsay. Although a celebrated beauty and highly regarded actor, Margaret Lindsay never became a great star, allegedly because she refused to play the Hollywood game and marry. When she required a male date for a red carpet event, she inevitably turned to gay friends like Cesar Romero and Liberace.

When her relationship with Janet Gaynor ended, Margaret Lindsay began a lifelong relationship with comedian and actor Mary McCarty.

Janet Gaynor and Adrian’s lavender marriage.

Despite marrying for convenience, Adrain and Janet Gaynor enjoyed a devoted marriage. They had a son and remained together until Adrian’s death in 1959.

Janet then married her last husband, film producer Paul Gregory. She died in 1984 from complications of injuries sustained in a car accident two years before.

janet gaynor lavender marriages
Mary Lindsay and Janet Gaynor

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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