The Lavender Scare

The untold story of a brutal witch hunt. And the courageous few who fought back.

"POWERFUL" The Advocate

"ENRAGING" IndieWire

"GRIPPING" Los Angeles Times

"FASCINATING" New York Times


Winner of 16 AWARDS For Best Documentary

Narrated by GLENN CLOSE

The untold story of a brutal witch hunt.

The Lavender Scare is the first documentary film to chronicle the U.S. government’s forty year campaign to remove homosexuals from the federal workforce. Tens of thousands of gay men and lesbians were denied employment or were driven from their jobs.

Careers were ruined and lives were destroyed.

But the story doesn’t end there.

A courageous few fought back.

From a community under siege, an unlikely hero stepped forward.

In 1957, a Harvard-trained astronomer named Frank Kameny became the first person to fight his dismissal. His attempts to regain his job would help ignite the LGBTQ rights movement, years before the Stonewall Uprising. Partly based on the award-winning book by historian David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare illuminates a shameful and little-known chapter of American history.

Especially in today’s social and political climate, it’s a story that is more relevant than ever.

Read our reviews.

“A gripping, nimbly assembled documentary. A vivid, disturbing and rousing picture of specious government intrusion at its worst.”

“An essential and absorbing documentary tells the story of the political repression of homosexuality in America in the '50s, when anti-gay panic fused with anti-Communist paranoia to create a new beast of injustice.”

“Compelling and well -made. The touching finale leaves you with a sense of resiliency.”

“The eye -opening documentary should be required viewing . The message is clear not just about history repeating itself, but possibly regressing to socially harmful and unjust ways.”

“Queer history is American history, and The Lavender Scare re-examines World War II, the Eisenhower administration, and the space race through a lens of gay liberation. It’s fascinating and horrifying — and timely, given the continuing scapegoating of marginalized groups.”

“An exceptional documentary, beautiful, carefully constructed and inspiring. Watching this film left me hopeful and inspired. I felt like I was back in the 60s, when I came of age, and anything seemed possible if we tried.”

“Josh Howard’s powerful film makes sure we don’t forget this lamentable time in history.”

“Sheds a valuable spotlight on the U.S. government's shameful history of anti-gay discrimination. A film that should be essential viewing in these times when intolerance is on the rise.”

“A must -see for anyone looking to immerse themselves in such history – especially LGBTQ viewers who want to learn more about their roots. This film belongs on LGBTQ studies syllabi nationwide.”

Meet the cast.

David Hyde Pierce

Cynthia Nixon

Narrated by Glenn Close

As the voice of young Frank Kameny

As the voice of Madeleine Tress

T.R. Knight

Zachary Quinto

As the voice of Dennis Flinn

As the voice of Drew Ference

Watch the trailer.

Hear the voices of some of the men and women who tell their first-person stories in The Lavender Scare .

The Investigator.

The Navy Captain.

Bartley A. Fugler ’s job was to identify and remove homosexuals from the federal workforce. Here’s how he did it.

Joan Cassidy was poised to become the first female admiral in the U.S. Navy Reserves. But it was not to be.

The Informer.

The Unlikely Hero.

When the government discovered Bob Cantillion was gay, he turned in his friends to save himself. He wasn’t expecting what happened next.

Thousands of government workers lost their jobs because they were gay or lesbian, and they all went away without a fight. Until Frank Kameny came along.

Host an exclusive screening.

With its powerful message of diversity, determination, and pride, The Lavender Scare is an ideal documentary film to feature at special events sponsored by:

Businesses Non-profit organizations Community groups Government agencies Cultural institutions Employee resource groups

We offer both virtual and in-person events and can tailor the program to meet your individual needs.

In-Person : We supply you with a copy of the film, either on DVD or by digital download. You supply the venue and projection equipment. Virtual: We set up a webpage branded with the name of your organization. (You can see a sample of what it looks like by visiting this link.) We provide a password for you to distribute to your viewers, which will allow them to stream the film at their convenience any time during the one-week period of your choice.


Praise from our screening partners… Community groups, corporate ERGs, law firms, cultural centers, and government agencies.

“McDermott Will & Emery screened The Lavender Scare as part of the firm’s annual pride program. The film received rave reviews for its authenticity and bold content. It’s touching and inspiring, and its message becomes more relevant with each passing day.” --Lisa A. Linsky, McDermott Will & Emery

“Our audience members, which included senior citizens, high school and college students as well as educators and members of the LGBTQ community, were in awe of the film. Thank you for sharing it with us.” -- Eric Mora, The National Steinbeck Center

“We loved the documentary. The film provided a powerful historical perspective for all our employees, especially our younger LGBT staff, and it was a great conversation starter with our straight co- workers.” --Dr. Chris LaFleur, Sandia National Laboratories

“ We were elated with the screening and the Q&A with Josh Howard. It was a great event, and attendees have been buzzing about it all day today.” – Jason Young, FS Investments

“We were delighted by the film and the audience reception. Frankly, it far exceeded even my high expectations . It’s a beautiful film about a compelling story that needed to be told.” --Joyce Bolinger, Southern Arizona Senior Pride

Film Festivals and Screenings

(Partial List)

Fort Myers, Florida * Fort Worth Fresno * Hartford, Connecticut Hope, Arkansas Houston * Huntington Beach, California Huntington, New York Indianapolis Jacksonville, Florida Juneau, Alaska * Kansas City Key West, Florida Livermore, California Long Beach, California Long Branch, New Jersey Los Alamos, New Mexico Los Angeles * Louisville * Macon Manchester, New Hampshire Martha’s Vineyard * Memphis * Miami Milwaukee New Haven New York Newport Beach, California Oakland, California

* Ocean Grove, New Jersey Omaha Palm Springs Peoria, Illinois Philadelphia Phoenix Portland, Oregon Raleigh, North Carolina Rehoboth Beach * Rochester, New York Salinas, California * Sacramento * Sag Harbor, New York * Salt Lake City * San Diego San Francisco Santa Cruz, California Scottsbluff, Nebraska Scottsdale, Arizona * Seattle Sonoma County St. Louis Sun Valley, Idaho * Tampa Tucson, Arizona Vero Beach, Florida Washington, D.C. Winstead, Connecticut * Yonkers, New York



Albuquerque Ann Arbor, Michigan Ashford, Washington Atlanta * Atlantic City Austin Baltimore Bethel, Connecticut Billings, Montana Birmingham, Alabama Boston Bridgehampton, New York Brooklyn Buffalo Cambridge, Massachusetts Charlotte, North Carolina Charlottesville, Virginia Chicago Dallas Dayton, Ohio Denver Des Moines Detroit Fairbanks, Alaska * Fargo Flagstaff Fort Lauderdale

* Amsterdam Athens Auckland Barcelona * Berlin Budapest Buenos Aires Calgary Cape Town Geneva Helsinki Johannesburg Jerusalem Luxembourg Madrid Mexico City Montreal Moscow Paris * Sydney The Hague Tokyo * Cologne Frankfurt

Toronto Warsaw Zagreb

* Denotes Award Winner

Based on the award winning book.

“Given the degree of injustice and the scale of suffering caused by the Lavender Scare, it’s astonishing that no one before Johnson has thought to write its history.” -- Hugh Brogan, The Times Literary Supplement "Johnson's book is one of the most instructive histories of the domestic Cold War to have appeared in years, but its reach extends beyond its immediate subject to the question, which vexes us today, of achieving the right balance between freedom and security." -- London Review of Books "Johnson has written a necessary, and extraordinarily compelling, social history of mid-century homophobia that should be read not only for what it tells us about then, but now as well." -- Michael Bronski, Bay Windows "Johnson's work assures that we shall never again be able to think about the anti-Communist crusade without acknowledging its fierce counterpart that affected so many people." -- Leila J. Rupp, Journal of American History "By demonstrating the extent to which gay history is part of mainstream history, (Johnson) continues the important academic endeavor of bringing the margins to the center." -- Fiona Paton, American Quarterly

The scholarly framework of the documentary film T he Lavender Scare is provided by the award-winning book of the same name by nationally recognized LGBTQ scholar David K. Johnson.

Published by the University of Chicago Press, it is the result of his groundbreaking doctoral research at Northwestern University, and as such was subject to rigorous peer review.

It has great credibility among educators and is now required reading in history classes at scores of colleges and universities around the country.

The credits.

Jill Landes, Associate Director Jill Landes is a journalist with a wide range of experience in broadcast news and documentary programming. At CBS Radio, she created a series of award-winning documentaries. As a television journalist, she developed and produced stories at Eye to Eye with Connie Chung , America Tonight , and both the Sunday and weeknight editions of 60 Minutes . At CNBC, Jill co-produced the feature documentary House of Cards , about the 2008 financial crisis.

Josh Howard, Producer/Director

Josh Howard is a producer and broadcast executive with more than 25 years of experience in news and documentary production. He has been honored with 24 Emmy Awards, mostly for his work on the CBS News broadcast 60 Minutes . As Vice President of Long Form Programming for CNBC, he created a unit that produced a series of award-winning documentaries focusing on American business.

Betsy West, Executive Producer

Bruce Shaw, Editor, Associate Producer, Motion Graphics

Betsy West co-directed the Oscar-nominated documentary RBG, about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her credits also include films about Julia Child, Pauli Murray, and Gabby Giffords. Betsy began her career as a producer at ABC News before moving to CBS News as a senior vice president. In 2015 she was named the Fred W. Friendly Professor of Professional Practice in Media at the Columbia University School of Journalism.

Bruce Shaw’s long list of credits in film editing, motion graphics, and post production span more than thirty years. He has worked on a wide variety of award-winning feature documentaries including Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line and Diane Keaton’s Heaven . For television, his credits include Ken Burns’ groundbreaking documentary The Civil War , and more than two dozen programs for PBS, such as American Experience and American Masters.

Kevin Jennings, Executive Producer

Richard White, Director of Photography

Kevin Jennings is chief executive officer of Lambda Legal, the largest national legal organization defending the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people. Previously, Kevin was president of the Tenement Museum, and the executive director of the Arcus Foundation. In 2009, Kevin was named Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Education Department, where he was perhaps best known for leading a national campaign to put a stop to bullying in schools.

An Emmy Award-winning cinematographer with over 30 years of experience behind the camera, Richard White’s work can be seen on 60 Minutes , Dateline NBC , and many other network news broadcasts. His documentary credits include Hey Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird ; A Joyous Sound , a portrait of Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra; and Pedro Ruiz: Coming Home , the story of the noted Cuban American choreographer.

David Johnson, Author, The Lavender Scare

Andrew Tobias, Executive Producer

A nationally recognized authority on LGBTQ+ history, David K. Johnson is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of South Florida. His first book, The Lavender Scare, was honored with a Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, among other prestigious awards. His latest book, Buying Gay, explores the history of gay consumer culture. David earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

Andrew Tobias is the author of The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need and The Best Little Boy in the World , among others. He has written extensively for New York , Esquire and Time . His 14-page 1998 Harvard Magazine cover story, “Gay Like Me: In and Out of the Closet at Harvard, 1653- 1998,” is said to have generated more reader mail than any other in the magazine’s history.

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For more information:

Kevin J. Collins Full Exposure Films

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