The Queen’s Cell: ‘Fortune and Men’s Eyes’ and the New Prison Drama

Theatre Survey, 55.2


Opening excerpt

The December 1970 issue of the Canadian newsmagazine Maclean’s features an article by movie critic John Hofsess designed to promote the new film Fortune and Men’s Eyes and to alert readers to that drama’s importance to Canada as a nation. The piece is subtitled “A Report from the Set in a Quebec City Prison” and announces John Herbert’s play Fortune and Men’s Eyes as “the most famous Canadian drama of the last decade—it’s been translated into eight languages and performed in 14 countries.” Hofsess’s first paragraph, however, does not contain Fortune’s list of accolades; instead, the author begins his piece with the following extraordinary narrative:

Two years ago the CBS television program Sixty Minutes reported “a routine incident” in a Philadelphia jail. A white youth, arrested for possession of marijuana and jailed overnight, was gang-raped the next morning by six black convicts in the back of a paddy wagon en route to a courthouse. Police found the boy bleeding and in shock. Such incidents [are] commonly and mistakenly referred to as “the problem of homosexuality in our prisons” [. . .] Yet, statistics indicate that more than 80% of sexual assaults in American prisons are committed by blacks against whites and are motivated by a different lust, a hateful rage that knows no containment.

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