Hudson, Rock

views updated


Nationality: American. Born: Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. in Winnetka, Illinois, 17 November 1925. Education: Attended New Trier High School, Winnetka. Military Service: Served in U.S. Navy in Philippines, 1944–46. Family: Married Phyllis Gates 1955 (divorced 1958). Career: 1948—personal contract with Raoul Walsh, and film debut in Fighter Squadron; 1949—contract with Universal; studied acting with Sophie Rosenstein; 1956—founded first production company 7 Pictures; 1971—series pilot film Once Upon a Dead Man led to long-running TV series McMillan and Wife, 1971–76, and McMillan, 1976–77; 1973—stage debut in I Do! I Do!; 1976—toured with John Brown's Body; 1978—in TV mini-series Wheels, and The Martian

Chronicles, in TV series The Devlin Connection, 1982, and Dynasty, 1984–85; 1985—announcement of his having AIDS focused national attention on the disease. Died: Of AIDS, in Beverly Hills, California, 2 October 1985.

Films as Actor:


Fighter Squadron (Walsh) (as lieutenant)


Undertow (Castle) (as detective)


I Was a Shoplifter (Lamont) (as store detective); One Way Street (Fregonese) (as truck driver); Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann) (as Young Bull); Peggy (de Cordova) (as Johnny Higgins); The Desert Hawk (de Cordova) (as Captain Ras)


Tomahawk (Sherman) (as Burt Hanna); Air Cadet (Pevney) (as upper classman); The Fat Man (Castle) (as Roy Clark); Iron Man (Pevney) (as Speed O'Keefe); Bright Victory (Robson) (as Corporal John Flagg)


Here Come the Nelsons (Meet the Nelsons) (de Cordova) (as Charles Jones); Bend of the River (Anthony Mann) (as Trey Wilson); Scarlet Angel (Salkow) (as Frank Truscott); Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (Sirk) (as Dan); Horizons West (Boetticher) (as Neal Hammond); The Lawless Breed (Walsh) (as John Wesley Hardin)


Seminole (Boetticher) (as Lance Caldwell); Sea Devils (Walsh) (as Gilliat); The Golden Blade (Juran) (as Harun); Back to God's Country (Pevney) (as Peter Keith)


Taza, Son of Cochise (Sirk) (title role); Magnificent Obsession (Sirk) (as Bob Merrick); Bengal Brigade (Benedek) (as Captain Jeffrey Claybourne)


Captain Lightfoot (Sirk) (as Michael Martin); One Desire (Hopper) (as Clint Saunders); All That Heaven Allows (Sirk) (as Ron Kirby)


Never Say Goodbye (Hopper) (as Dr. Michael Parker); Written on the Wind (Sirk) (as Mitch Wayne); Giant (Stevens) (as Bick Benedict); Four Girls in Town (Sher)


Battle Hymn (Sirk) (as Col. Dean Hess); Something of Value (Richard Brooks) (as Peter McKenzie); The Tarnished Angels (Sirk) (as Burke Devlin); A Farewell to Arms (Charles Vidor) (as Lt. Frederick Henry)


Twilight for the Gods (Pevney) (as David Bell)


This Earth Is Mine (Henry King) (as John Rambeau); Pillow Talk (Gordon) (as Brad Allen)


The Last Sunset (Aldrich) (as Dana Stribling); Come September (Mulligan) (as Robert Talbot); Lover Come Back (Delbert Mann) (as Jerry Webster)


The Spiral Road (Mulligan) (as Dr. Anton Drager)


A Gathering of Eagles (Delbert Mann) (as Jim Caldwell); Marilyn (Henry Koster—doc) (as narrator)


Man's Favorite Sport? (Hawks) (as Roger Willoughby); Send Me No Flowers (Jewison) (as George Kimball); Strange Bedfellows (Frank) (as Carter Harrison)


A Very Special Favor (Gordon) (as Paul Chadwick)


Blindfold (Dunne) (as Dr. Bartholomew Snow); Seconds (Frankenheimer) (as Antiochus Wilson); Tobruk (Hiller) (as Major Donald Craig)


Ice Station Zebra (John Sturges) (as Commander James Farraday)


Ruba al prossimo tuo (A Fine Pair) (Maselli) (as Captain Mike Harmon); The Undefeated (McLaglen) (as Col. John Henry Thomas)


Darling Lili (Edwards) (as Major William Larrabee); Hornet's Nest (Karlson) (as Captain Turner)


Pretty Maids All in a Row (Vadim) (as Michael "Tiger" McDrew); Once Upon a Dead Man (Stern—for TV) (as Stewart McMillan)


Showdown (Seaton) (as Chuck Jarvis)


Embryo (Created to Kill) (Nelson) (as Dr. Paul Holliston)


Avalanche (Corey Allen) (as David Shelby)


The Mirror Crack'd (Hamilton) (as Jason Rudd)


The Star Maker (Antonio—for TV)


World War III (Greene—for TV)


The Ambassador (J. Lee Thompson) (as Frank Stevenson); The Vegas Strip War (Englund—for TV) (as Neil Chaine)


By HUDSON: book—

Rock Hudson: His Story, with Sara Davidson, London, 1986.

By HUDSON: articles—

Interview, in Films Illustrated (London), August 1980.

Interviews, in Ciné Revue (Paris), 23 August and 11 October 1984.

Interview with John Kobal, in Films and Filming (London), October 1985.

"Scared Straight," interview with Boze Hadleigh, in American Film (Washington, D.C.), January/February 1987.

On HUDSON: books—

Parish, James, and Don Stanke, The All Americans, New Rochelle, New York, 1977.

Friedman, Jeannette, Rock Hudson: The Story of a Giant, Cresskill, New Jersey, 1985.

Althen, Michael, Rock Hudson: Seine Filme, sein Leben, Munich, 1986.

Bego, Mark, Rock Hudson: Public and Private: An Unauthorized Biography, New York, 1986.

Oppenheimer, Jerry, and Jack Vitek, Idol, Rock Hudson: The True Story of an American Film Hero, New York, 1986.

Gates, Phyllis, with Bob Thomas, My Husband Rock Hudson, New York, 1987.

Clark, Tom, with Dick Kleiner, Rock Hudson: Friend of Mine, New York, 1989.

Parker, John, Five for Hollywood, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1990.

Parker, John, The Trial of Rock Hudson, London, 1990.

Royce, Brenda Scott, Rock Hudson: A Bio-Bibliography, Westport, Connecticut, 1995.

Brownworth, Victoria, Rock Hudson, Broomall, Pennsylvania, 1995.

On HUDSON: articles—

Current Biography, 1961, New York, 1961.

Hicks, J., "Rock Hudson: The Film Actor as Romantic Hero," in Films in Review (New York), May 1975.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 9 October 1985.

Lippe, Richard, "Rock Hudson: His Story," in CineAction! (Toronto), no. 10, 1987.

Davidson, Casey, "AIDS Claims Its First Star: A Sad and Startled Nation Said Goodbye to Rock Hudson 10 Years Ago," in Entertainment Weekly, 29 September 1995.

On HUDSON: film—

Rock Hudson, television movie, directed by John Nicolella.

* * *

Rock Hudson was an actor who never quite found his niche in Hollywood. Basically a competent performer, and quite a fine one when directed well, Hudson appeared in more than his share of bad movies. He began his film career with almost no training when he appeared in Raoul Walsh's Fighter Squadron. Legend has it that 38 takes were required for him to deliver his one line adequately. Hudson literally learned his craft on the job, a luxury not afforded to actors since the demise of the studio system. Although he started at Warner Brothers he moved to Paramount for his next film, William Castle's Undertow. Then he appeared in Anthony Mann's Winchester '73, Frederick de Cordova's The Desert Hawk, Joseph Pevney's Air Cadet, and Mark Robson's Bright Victory.

Hudson's parts grew longer in a series of adventure films made during Hollywood's last great production splurge: Mann's Bend of the River, Sidney Salkow's Scarlet Angel, Douglas Sirk's Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, Budd Boetticher's Horizons West and Seminole, and Walsh's Sea Devils and Gun Fury. In the mid-1950s Sirk, the most influential director in Hudson's career, used him perceptively in a number of better-than-average films: Taza, Son of Chochise, Captain Lightfoot, Magnificent Obsession, and All That Heaven Allows. The last two movies established him as a leading actor in "women's" films. After a fine performance in George Stevens's Giant, he made three additional films for Sirk, two of which, Written on the Wind and The Tarnished Angels, revealed a depth of character not previously evident in his films.

Hudson's third shift in career came when he was cast in a series of light comedies, several opposite Doris Day. Although the films vary greatly in quality, they afforded Hudson an opportunity to explore his comedic talents. Michael Gordon's Pillow Talk, Robert Mulligan's Come September, Delbert Mann's Lover Come Back, Norman Jewison's Send Me No Flowers, Melvin Frank's Strange Bedfellows, and Gordon's A Very Special Favor culminated with Hudson's comic tour de force in Howard Hawks's slapstick farce, Man's Favorite Sport?, in which Hudson gave a performance worthy of Cary Grant at his best.

From the mid-1960s Hudson appeared in a series of mediocre films including Roger Vadim's Pretty Maids All in a Row, in which he played an aging lothario who degenerates from a life of sex to violent crime among a bevy of nubile high school girls. He reunited with his Giant co-star Elizabeth Taylor for The Mirror Crack'd, a big-budget adaptation of an Agatha Christie Miss Marple novel (Angela Lansbury played Miss Marple), an engaging murder mystery that hinted at a career upswing. He also had a major role in the compelling, critically acclaimed 1982 telefilm World War III.

Hudson made his last screen appearance in the 1984 telefilm The Las Vegas Strip Wars. A year later, while on a trip to Paris seeking medical treatment for an "unstated" illness, Hudson collapsed and the story broke that the actor had been diagnosed with AIDS. And the secret was finally out: the longtime romantic idol of the silver screen was gay. Hudson, his managers, and the studios for which he worked had successfully skirted the rumors of Hudson's homosexuality for years. Hudson believed his career as a leading man would be finished if the truth ever got out. The revelation he had sought to avoid for years made headlines everywhere after his diagnosis, but it resulted in an outpouring of sympathy and good wishes, rather than scorn, from his many fans in virtually every corner of the globe. His last public appearance at a benefit hosted by former leading lady Doris Day revealed the awful truth of AIDS to the world in vivid and uncompromising terms, Hudson's once strapping figure and handsome face now ravaged almost beyond recognition by the insidious virus. Five years after Hudson's death of AIDS, his secret life and public career became the subject of an inevitable television docudrama, with Thomas Ian Griffith starring as Hudson.

—Charles L. P. Silet, updated by John McCarty