Two local archivists recently triumphed after a six-year treasure hunt, trying to locate an existing copy of a 54-year-old documentary that aired on PBS stations called "The Rejected." Made in 1961 and produced by KQED, with funding from New York's WNET, the film is obviously very dated, featuring a lot of talk about the "unpleasant" problem of homosexuality, however it is also weirdly progressive. In the film's intro, KQED Station Manager James Day reads a letter from California's Attorney General, Stanley Mosk, in which he says that a frank discussion of homosexuality may, at least, "lead to a broader understanding of the condition."
KQED describes the lengthy journey to locate an existing copy of "The Rejected," which was thought to be lost completely, and existed only as a transcript. KQED archivist Robert Chehoski worked with local film archivist Alex Cherian (San Francisco Bay Area TV Archive) and Professor Bob Connelly at American University in Washington, D.C., and ultimately they found a copy of the hilm right under their noses, at the Library of Congress whom they convinced to allow them to clean up and upload the footage, which you can now watch here, via SF State's DIVA Film Archive.
The one-hour film features statements by the likes of Margaret Mead (arguably herself a lesbian), who at the time was a curator at the Museum of Natural History in New York, who says bold things like, "Homosexuality is not only found in great civilizations like the civilization of the United States, but is found among people at every level of culture... [and] there's a kind of playful homosexual behavior that is found in a great many societies."
It's mostly a dry discussion by "experts" in the field, with multiple references to the pioneering work of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, which in 1961 was barely a decade old. (Kinsey himself died in 1956.) But perhaps the most amazing sequence comes about 22 minutes in which three well dressed, openly gay members of the Mattachine Society speaking about their early gay rights work. One of them even answers the question whether marriage to a woman is a "good idea" for homosexuals as a "cover-up," and he says, obviously, no.
The late producer Irving Saraf, who died in 2012, told Cherian that another cut of the film may exist somewhere that has some very rare footage inside an early 1960s gay bar, possibly in San Francisco. But that copy of the film has not been found, and may have been destroyed.
Cherian tells SFist that he is "working with the Library of Congress and the film's copyright holder WNET to try and produce a better video copy of The Rejected."
Happy Pride Month, everybody!
This article has been corrected to clarify the involvement of Mr. Cherian in the project.