Born to a lower middle class family in Santa Monica, California, Anger would later claim to have been a child actor who appeared in the film A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), although the accuracy of this claim has come under dispute. He began making short films when he was ten years old, although his first film to gain any recognition, the homoerotic Fireworks (1947), would only be produced a decade later. The controversial nature of the work led to him being put on trial on obscenity charges, but he was acquitted, subsequently beginning a friendship and working relationship with pioneering sexologist Alfred Kinsey. Moving to Europe, he produced a number of other shorts inspired by the artistic scene on the continent, such as Rabbit's Moon (released 1970) and Eaux d'Artifice (1953).
Returning to the United States in 1953, he set about working on several new projects, including the films Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Scorpio Rising (1964), Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), and the gossip book Hollywood Babylon (1965). Getting to know several notable countercultural figures around at the time, including Tennessee Williams, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Marianne Faithfull and Anton LaVey, Anger got them involved in his subsequent Thelemite-themed works, Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) and Lucifer Rising (1972). Following his failure to produce a sequel to Lucifer Rising, Anger retired from filmmaking in the early 1980s, instead publishing the book Hollywood Babylon II (1982). At the dawn of the 21st century he once more returned to filmmaking, producing shorts for various film festivals and events.
Anger has described filmmakers such as Auguste and Louis Lumière and Georges Méliès as influences, and has been cited as an important influence on later film directors like Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and John Waters. He has also been described as having "a profound impact on the work of many other filmmakers and artists, as well as on music video as an emergent art form using dream sequence, dance, fantasy, and narrative."
As Anger discovered his homosexuality, at a time when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United States, he began associating with the underground gay scene. At some point in the mid 1940s, he was arrested by the police in a "homosexual entrapment", after which he decided to move out of his parents' home, gaining his own sparse apartment largely financed by his grandmother, and abandoning the name Anglemyer in favor of Anger. He started attending the University of Southern California, where he studied cinema, and also began experimenting with the use of mind-altering drugs like cannabis and peyote. It was then that he decided to produce a film that would deal with his sexuality, just as other gay avant-garde film makers like Willard Maas were doing in that decade. The result was the short film Fireworks, which was created in 1947 but only exhibited publicly in 1948.
Upon release of the work, Anger was arrested on obscenity charges. He was acquitted, after the case went to the Supreme Court of California, which deemed it to be art rather than pornography. Anger made the claim to have been seventeen years old when he made it, despite the fact that he was actually twenty, presumably to present himself as more of an enfant terrible. A homoerotic work lasting only 14 minutes, Fireworks revolves around a young man (played by Anger himself) associating with various navy sailors, who eventually turn on him, stripping him naked and beating him to death, ripping open his chest to find a clock ticking inside. Several fireworks then explode, accompanied by a burning Christmas tree and the final shot shows the young man lying in bed next to another topless man. Of this film, Anger would later state in 1966 that "This flick is all I have to say about being 17, the United States Navy, American Christmas and the fourth of July." He would continuously alter and adapt the film up until 1980, with it finally being distributed on VHS in 1986.
One of the first people to buy a copy of Fireworks was the sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey of the Institute for Sex Research. He and Anger struck up a friendship that would last until the doctor's death, during which time Anger aided Kinsey in his research. According to Anger's unofficial biographer Bill Landis, Kinsey became a "father figure" whom Anger "could both interact with and emulate." Meanwhile, in 1949 Anger began work on a film called Puce Women, which unlike Fireworks was filmed in color. It starred Yvonne Marquis as a glamorous woman going about her daily life; Anger would later state that "Puce Women was my love affair with Hollywood... with all the great goddesses of the silent screen. They were to be filmed in their homes; I was, in effect, filming ghosts." A lack of funding meant that only one scene was ever produced, which was eventually released under the title Puce Moment. That same year, Anger directed The Love That Whirls, a film based upon Aztec human sacrifice but, because of the nudity that it contained, it was destroyed by technicians at the film lab, who deemed it to be obscene.
Anger has always been an "extremely private individual," although has given various interviews over the years, with one interviewer, David Wingrove, describing him in 2008 as "a joy. Gentle, soft-spoken, immaculately tanned, he looks a good two decades younger than his 78 years". In such interviews, he refuses to disclose information on his name change from Anglemeyer to Anger, telling an interviewer who brought the topic up in 2004 that "You're being impertinent. It says Anger on my passport, that's all you need to know. I would stay away from that subject if I was you." In a 2010 interview however he stated that "I just condensed my name. I knew it would be like a label, a logo. It's easy to remember." Anger is openly gay, with one of his friends describing how he "was attracted to people who were either well endowed or the Arnold Schwarzenegger type." He once joked that he was "somewhat to the right of the KKK" in his views about black people, opening him up to criticism for racism. He is a passionate supporter of the Tibetan independence movement.
Anger is a Thelemite and after many years joined the Thelemic organisation, the Ordo Templi Orientis. He viewed many of the men he associated with as living embodiments of Lucifer, a symbol of the Aeon of Horus in Thelemic philosophy, and had the name of Lucifer tattooed onto his chest, which he identifies as being his own. Despite being a Thelemite, Anger has shown an interest in various other religious movements, particularly those that are in some way occult. For instance, he was a lifelong friend of Anton LaVey, both before and after the founding of the Church of Satan in the 1960s, and lived with LaVey and his family during the 1980s. LaVey also made an appearance in one of Anger's films, Invocation to My Demon Brother (1969) while Anger wrote forewords to two of LaVey's books, The Devil's Notebook (1992) and Satan Speaks! (1998). He describes himself as a "pagan" and refuses to consider himself to be a Satanist. He also claims Wicca to be a "lunar", feminine religion, contrasted with the "solar" masculinity of Thelema.
"If you are a member of the media, you belong to the public. You've made that Faustian bargain with your public. Take me – all of me – I'm yours." --Kenneth AngerSource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Anger
Concurrent with theater, underground film culture was thriving during the 1950s and 1960s. As early as 1947, twenty-year old Kenneth Anger, formerly a child actor in Hollywood films, made the homosexual-themed Fireworks, a masturbatory dream film starring himself. Fireworks became a touchstone for underground film culture. By the early 1960s, openly gay filmmakers such as James Broughton, Michael and George Kuchar, Andy Warhol, and Jack Smith - whose 1964 Flaming Creatures was continually banned throughout the United States for decades - were in the forefront of redefining the possibilities of American film. This was a pivotal cultural movement for homosexual artists. They now had the permission to produce openly gay work without clear traditions and antecedents. --A Queer History of the United States by Michael BronskiFurther Readings:
Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets by Kenneth Anger
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Straight Arrow Books (November 15, 1981)
Amazon: Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets
Originally published in Paris, this is a collection of Hollywood's darkest and best kept secrets from the pen of Kenneth Anger, a former child movie actor who grew up to become one of America's leading underground film-makers.
Kenneth Anger by Alice L. Hutchison
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Black Dog Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (December 6, 2011)
Amazon: Kenneth Anger
The long-awaited paperback reissue of the previously censored Kenneth Anger. A counter-culture icon of the twentieth century and patriarch of underground cinema, Kenneth Anger is a unique figure in the history of art and film. His career spans over 60 years—from the classic Fireworks, 1947, lauded by Jean Cocteau and Tennessee Williams, to the influential Scorpio Rising, 1963, to recent projects.
This highly-illustrated book joins insightful text and unseen film stills to tell the vivid story of this evocative director and remains the only comprehensive book on the market.
Moonchild: The Films of Kenneth Anger (Persistence of Vision) by Jack Hunter
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Creation Books (February 15, 2002)
Amazon: Moonchild: The Films of Kenneth Anger
Kenneth Anger: author of Hollywood Babylon, true disciple of Aleister Crowley, former mentor to both Bobby Beausoleil and Mick Jagger, amongst others - and almost certainly the most original and talented film-maker of the 20th Century.
Moonchild presents revelatory texts on the occult, mind-altering, homo-erotic, synaesthetic and pop-culture tropes to be found within such classic underground films as Fireworks, Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome, Scorpio Rising, Invocation Of My Demon Brother, and Lucifer Rising. Contributors inclue Mikita Brottman (author of Hollywood Hex) and Jack Sargeant (author of Deathtripping and Naked Lens).
Accompanied by a host of opulent film images, a filmography and quotes from Anger himself, Moonchild is the definitive study of one of cinema's most charismatic yet elusive innovators.
Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger by Bill Landis
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harpercollins; First Edition edition (June 1996)
Amazon: Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger
From the beginning of the underground film movement in the U.S. and Europe, through the fringe gay world of the '40s and '50s, to the '60s in London and San Francisco (when Anger was at his peak of fame), to the present, Anger takes the reader on a wild journey tracing the reclusive, countercultural life of America's most innovative and highly regarded underground filmmaker. Known worldwide for his bestselling Hollywood Babylon books and his cult film classics Scorpio Rising, Lucifer Rising and Fireworks, Anger's aesthetic vision influenced such directors as Steven Spielberg, Dennis Hopper and Martin Scorcese, and can still be felt years later in contemporary mediums such as rock videos. In this sensational story of one of the century's most creative and controversial iconoclasts, the reader encounters characters as diverse as sexuality expert Dr. Alfred Kinsey, avant-gardists Anais Nin and Marianne Faithfull, rock icons Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page and Bobby Beausoleil, the Manson murderer who was Anger's prot,g, and a star of Lucifer Rising. A powerful and compelling read, Anger is indispensable for film buffs and is sure to appeal to the burgeoning gay market.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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