WATCH: Will 'Behind The Candelabra' Convey Liberace's Cultural Impact?

Behind The Candelabra

The new trailer for Steven Soderbergh's Behind The Candelabra sure is compelling, but will the HBO movie do justice to Liberace?  The clip leaves little doubt that Michael Douglas, who plays the flamboyant entertainer in this tragicomic love story, and Matt Damon, who portrays his much younger lover, Scott Thorson, are going to be memorable, and that Soderbergh has taken a measured approach to the camp aspects of this story. But what I can't tell from the footage is whether Behind The Candelabra will give Liberace his due as a pioneering postwar performance artist.

Liberace's Cultural Impact

It's easy to mock Liberace's extreme sequin & fur vibe and lifestyle, but, the reality is, he was a show-business maverick who had an incredible influence on American pop culture. For better or worse, you can trace jump-suited Vegas-era Elvis, Elton John, 1970s glam rock, Siegfried & Roy, Madonna, Lady Gaga and even elements of  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone  to Liberace's show-business DNA. Way back in the conservative 1950s, he was swanning into American homes via a syndicated television show and mesmerizing audiences with a combination of shock and schmaltz. Even if he never did come out of the closet, he still broke down a lot of barriers just by letting his freak flag fly.

I'm sure that Liberace's cultural significance is not lost on Soderbergh, but I do hope Behind The Candelabra acknowledges it in some smart way. Even if it doesn't, I'll be watching when the film premieres on HBO on May 26.

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  • Marilyn Christensen says:

    I grew up in the early 60's and I can remember my mother watching him every week on TV and my dad ready to gag. What an entertainer! He was a great pianist and was also funny. My great aunt was his dentist in Laurel Canyon for years and she had some wonderful stories but the one quote I remember was "He's a lovely person."