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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 2, 2023



the male Adonis of his time

                                                 ROCK HUDSON with GEORGE NADER

CURRENTLY SHOWING ON HBO is a moving documentary on the top matinee idol in Hollywood in the 50s, Rock Hudson, who died in 1985. His fans were shocked as he died of complications from AIDS. 

“Rock Hudson, All That Heaven Allowed” (the title comes from “All that Heaven Allows”, one of his biggest hits with Jane Wyman) is directed by Stephen Kijak, combining interviews with his co-stars, friends, former lovers and archival footage to give more insight into the life of the Hollywood icon. 

Rock was born in Winnetka, Illinois on November 17, 1925. 

His real name is Roy Harold Scherer but he took the family name of his stepdad, Fitzgerald, when his mom remarried. 

After high school, he joined the U.S. Navy in World War II and was assigned for a while as a mechanic at the Aviation Repair Unit in Samar, the Philippines. 

After his stint with the Navy, he moved to Los Angeles to try acting.

He sent his picture to a talent manager, Henry Wilson, in 1947 and Wilson got him and changed his name to Rock Hudson (from the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River.) This was shown in the mini-series “Hollywood”.

Wilson,who’s gay, was then grooming a lot of beefcake actors, including Troy Donahue, Guy Madison and Tab Hunter.

With his towering physique (he’s 6’5”) and imposing good looks, Rock was signed up by Universal and he started playing supporting roles in 1949, like in “Winchester 73” where he played a Native American Indian. 

He played his first lead role in “Scarlet Angel” in 1952 and was paired with Piper Laurie in “Has Anybody Seen My Gal”, also in 1952.

He made many action-adventure films but it was not until he did the romantic drama “Magnificent Obsession” in 1954 with Jane Wyman that he became an established romantic leading man. 

It was produced by Ross Hunter and directed by Douglas Sirk and for this, he was named the most popular actor of the year. 

He was reunited with Wyman the next year in “All That Heaven Allows”, also a big hit. 

In 1956, he co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean in “Giant”, for which he got his only Oscar nomination, but he lost to Yul Brynner for “The King and I”.

He then did several hit romcoms with Doris Day like “Pillow Talk”, “Lover Come Back” and “Send Me No Flowers” (which we all saw and enjoyed.)

 In 1971, he successfully branched out to television and did a hit show, “McMillan & Wife”, where he played a police commissioner with Susan Saint James as his wife. 

This ran for several seasons until 1977. 

His last appearance on TV was in “Dynasty”.

The docu not only shows his films but also Rock’s personal life that were kept out of the public’s eye then, including his secret world of gay friends and boyfriends and the uninhibited parties they had then. 

An ex-boyfriend, Lee Garlington, says he is a very generous lover and shares their private photos taken when they had a vacation together in New Orleans in the 60s and hidden from the public. 

Another boyfriend says Rock is well hung and wants to bonk him but he didn’t allow it.

The entertainment press was then wondering why he has not gotten married and asked him to explain why.

A few days before he turned 30, Rock married Phyllis Gates, the secretary of his agent Henry Wilson. 

She divorced him three years later saying he’s always away shooting somewhere. Most people in showbiz then knew Rock was gay, but he did succeed to keep his private life to himself until AIDS took over.

The docu cleverly uses film clips from his past films edited together in an immersive collage that, in hindsight, takes a new meaning to reflect his life while inside the closet.

In “Bengal Brigade”, he tells a woman: “I can’t marry you. For a moment, I forgot what I am.” 

In “A Very Special Favor”, his leading lady, Leslie Caron, tells him: “Hiding in closets isn’t going to cure you.”

But his friends and lovers say that Rock was really a genuinely amiable person who is very comfortable in his own skin when he is not facing the camera. 

He can be very free spirited and open to his friends who really know him. 

The last part of the docu shows his looks deteriorating fast after he was diagnosed with aids in 1984, with folks speculating about his condition until the next year when he was confined in France and his publicist read an official statement saying that he did has AIDS.

By being the first top Hollywood star to admit his condition, Rock helped in raising awareness of the virus at a time when the government, then under Reagan, was very slow in taking action. 

Rock’s journey has indeed taken a bittersweet dimension that all the closeted celebs out there who continue to hide their real color can surely relate with.

The docu is truly an engrossing portrait of an iconic actor and his true self which he has to hide from a homophobic public knowing that coming out will surely ruin his career.