Partner David Vivian
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Sean Rex Patrick O'Malley (January 2, 1901 - May 1, 1976) was a British actor, often seen in effete roles. He had a prolific career on stage (Broadway, 1927-63).
Rex O'Malley was born on January 2, 1901 in London, England as Sean Rex Patrick O'Malley. His mother was an Irish seamstress.
He acted on Broadway, in films and in television.
In 1927 he was Miguel in The Marquise with Billie Burke. Written by Noël Coward. Directed by David Burton. Biltmore Theatre.
He remains perhaps best-known for his supporting roles in Camille (1936) with Greta Garbo and Midnight (1939) starring Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche.
George Cukor's favorite sissy was London-born Rex O'Malley, an effeminate stage actor known for playing parts of "the suave, sophisticated Noel Coward type," according to one press account. Cukor hired him in 1936 for Camille, in which he essayed Gaston, Garbo's devoted (and, to many audiences, obviously gay) friend. Cukor used him again in Zaza (1939). That same years, Mitchell Leisen, who had moved from set design to directing, cast O'Malley somewhat against type in Midnight. "Rex was a wonderful comedian," Leisen remembered. "I made him play his part in Midnight as straight as he could; it's about the straightest part he ever did." But his queerness came through nonetheless. When Leisen attempted to use O'Malley as a model for other players, one actor balked because "he didn't want to get established as that kind of faggoty character."
Considering the work of classic Hollywood's gay directors and gay producers, a small but vital subset of the studio system, suggests "queer cinema" might not be such a modern postulate. Occasionally, a convergence of director, producer, writer, and star came together, such as happened with Camille (1937). The gay writer DeWitt Bodeen said that Camille "represents a meeting of talents that were perfect for its interpretation." In fact, wags like to call the picture a rare "all-gay" studio production, and in some ways it comes close: producer David Lewis, director George Cukor, screenwriter Zoe Akins. Greta Garbo, too, and Mercedes de Acosta had a hand in the early draft of the script before Akins took over. Robert Taylor, who played a stunningly beautiful Armand, was rumored to be having an affair with the film's set decorator, Jack Moore. There was also Adrian on costumes and Sydney Guilaroff doing hair. Rex O'Malley infused his Gaston with a natural feyness, a quality perhaps intended by Cukor and Akins, and another gay actor, Rex Evans, played several bit parts. ("Who is that big man and what part is he playing?" Garbo asked Cukor. "That man is Rex Evans," the director replied, "and he's playing the part of a friend who needs a job.") Cukor also manuevered the hiring of another friend, and another gay man, as the picture's true art director, supplanting the ubiquitous Cedric Gibbons, whose contract nonetheless decreed screen credit. This was Oliver Messel, esteemed scenic and costume designer from the London stage, whose outsider status evoked suspicion in the competitive world of the Hollywood studios. It wasn't Messel's first encounter with the studio bureaucracy; in 1935, during the filming of Romeo and Juliet, Cukor had caused a near war by insisting Messel design the costumes instead of Adrian, whom Cukor, according to several friends, viewed as pompous and pretentious. Cukor, as discreet as he was, never tried to obfuscate either his Jewishness or his gayness in the way Adrian did. "I get annoyed with statements that call George "closeted",", said his longtime friend and Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas. "George was never closeted. He never pretended to be anything he wasn't. He lived according to the rules of his time, that's all."
In 1937 he played in You Never Know. Starring Clifton Webb, Lupe Velez, Libby Holman and Toby Wing. It opened at the Winter Garden on Sept. 21st and folded after 73 performances. This was a troubled production despite the stellar cast involved with serious conflicts between Libby Holman and Lupe Velez (who was cast as her maid). Play received mediocre reviews and star Clifton Webb flatly refused offer to take the show on the road after it closed, despite his long friendship with Holman. This marked co-star Toby Wing's only Broadway performance and she effectively retired after the show's run. Sadly (and ironically), both Holman and Velez would ultimately commit suicide.
In 1939 he was Beverly Stanley in The Man Who Came to Dinner. Starring Monty Woolley. Comedy. Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Featuring a song by Cole Porter. Directed by George S. Kaufman. Music Box Theatre. Always in 1939 he acted in Noël Coward's play, "Private Lives," at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey with Eva Le Gallienne in the cast. Frank Carrington was director. He also directed Alan Child and Isabelle Louden's play, "The Pursuit of Happiness," at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey with Tonio Selwart and Uta Hagen in the cast.
In the 1940s he lived in New York City with radio technician David Vivian.
In 1960 he was Northbrook in The Sleeping Prince. Written by Terence Rattigan. Directed by Michael Redgrave. Assistant to Mr. Redgrave: Fred Sadoff. Coronet Theatre.
In 1963 he was Auguste in The Lady of the Camellias. Dramatized by Giles Cooper. Adaptation by Terrence McNally (earliest Broadway credit). From "The Lady of the Camellias" by Alexandre Dumas. Incidental music by Ned Rorem. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Winter Garden Theatre
He died on May 1, 1976 in New York City, New York, USA.
My published books:
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Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969, William J. Mann, 2001