The Fall of ’55

2006 | Abuse / Activism / American Studies / Censorship / Coming Out / Documentary / Homophobia / Human Rights / Media Studies / Mental Health / Representation / Sexuality / Social Issues | 82m | USA
Directors: Seth Randal

In the fall of 1955, a gay sex scandal erupted in the unassuming, wholesome and “vice-less” town of Boise, Idaho as male teenage sex workers began to disclose their dalliances to authorities. Overnight, Boise’s same-sex underworld, comprised mostly of married family men, was splashed onto headlines and thrust into the spotlight. Reputations were shattered and lives ruined as the rumors and accusations flew.

What followed was a classic witchhunt, marked by intense homophobic hysteria, in which the whole town became embroiled.

Seth Randal’s gripping documentary provides unique insights into the pre-Stonewall gay experience as well as the struggle with LGBTQ identities and the prevailing myth that it was a cancer that could be spread to the youth. Interesting parallels are also drawn with the era of McCarthyism, during which fear and paranoia supplanted rational thought, and the federal government began its own purge of suspected queer personnel.

The film raises many questions that prove difficult even today: What kinds of behavior are immoral? How far should the community have gone to protect the youth? Who were the victims, and who were the exploited? In Boise, more than fifty years later, opinions are still deeply divided.

Reviews and Awards

“Spirited and meticulously fair, The Fall of ‘55 is deeply instructive to the rest of us, who might think it could never happen where we live.”—Barbara Wilcox,

“The Fall of ‘55 is an invaluable window into a critical set of events in 20th century gay American history.”—Gayle Rubin, Anthropology and Women's Studies, University of Michigan