“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time,” Gordon Bowsher wrote during the harrowing days of World War II. “Then all the world could see how in love we are.”
Many are now getting the opportunity to witness their incredible love story, more than 80 years after Bowsher wrote to Gilbert Bradley, the man he loved.
The two were separated in 1939, when Bradley was drafted into the British Army.
Throughout World War II, they wrote each other love letters, which have now been captured in Andrew Vallentine’s short film “The Letter Men,” starring Garrett Clayton as Bradley and Matthew Postlethwaite as Bowsher.
The film premiered June 10 at Tribeca Film Festival and is showing throughout the week.
Vallentine had the idea for his film after learning of the couple's letters in 2017.
“Being a gay filmmaker, combined with my love for World War II history, I knew I had to tell this story,” Vallentine, the director and co-writer of the film, said.
Bradley and Bowsher first met in Devon, in southwest England, in 1938. In love but separated by the war, the two men began writing each other letters — a potentially dangerous act during that era. Homosexuality was illegal in the U.K. until 1967.
“Most queer people burned their letters during that time because they were terrified of being discovered,” Vallentine said.
“Indecency,” the military term for sexual activity between men, could result in a lengthy prison sentence for British soldiers. As a result, correspondence detailing gay love from that time is extremely rare.
Vallentine said that, at some point, Bradley told Bowsher he fell in love with another man in Scotland, and their letters became more friendly until they drifted apart and stopped writing to each other in 1945. Bradley kept his letters until his death in 2008.
Vallentine co-wrote the script with his husband, Danny Vallentine. The majority of the script is composed of the exact words from Bradley and Bowsher’s letters.
Vallentine made sure that most of the cast and crew involved in the production of the film identified as LGBTQ.
“I think it’s important that we tell our own stories,” he said. “That doesn’t always necessarily need to happen, but in this case I’m happy that it was.”
For Vallentine, highlighting the positivity of gay love was important when producing “The Letter Men.”
“In a lot of LGBTQ+ cinema, we tell our worst stories, some of the worst things that have happened to us from over the years,” he said. “In ‘The Letter Men,’ we didn’t explore hate crimes, we didn’t explore people being shunned for being in love. We really just told the story of these two men in love.”