MTV Documentary Films acquired the award-winning short subject documentary Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker from director Ryan White (The Case Against 8, Ask Dr. Ruth, The Keepers). The film, narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, won the Best Documentary Short award at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, screened at the 2021 AFI Docs and Nantucket Film Festival, and was named a Critic’s Choice by Independent Magazine.
Coded: The Hidden Love of J. C. Leyendecker tells the story of legendary illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, a gay man, whose early-20th century advertisements were coded with LGBTQ+ imagery that quietly acknowledged and spoke directly to a community that was forced to live in the closet. The documentary explores Leyendecker’s legacy as a grandfather of modern advertising, connecting how today’s LGBTQ+ advertisements are built upon a foundation laid by his work. Despite being one of the most prominent artists of his time, and with more Saturday Evening Post covers than Norman Rockwell, Leyendecker’s story has been largely untold, further demonstrating how the struggle for LGBTQ+ visibility never ends.
“I’m thrilled to partner with Sheila Nevins and the team at MTV Documentary Films to bring Coded: The Hidden Love of J. C. Leyendecker to a global audience. The personal story of J.C. Leyendecker has been in many ways lost to history, so I hope Coded: The Hidden Love of J. C. Leyendecker puts his incredible life and art back in the spotlight,” said director Ryan White.