During his lifetime, Rock Hudson was a exemplary for American masculinity. That changed aft his death, erstwhile nan strapping, straight-acting (but occasionally sensitive) hunk from Winnetka became nan poster boy for Hollywood homophobia: a closeted prima who’d been forced to play a domiciled his full profession that wasn’t existent to himself, connected surface and off. “Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed” treats that discuss arsenic a tragedy, leaning connected nan truth Hudson died of AIDS to underscore nan injustice, but Stephen Kijak’s documentary does him a disservice, reducing Hudson’s profession — successful precisely nan measurement he went truthful acold retired of his measurement to debar — to nan magnitude of his sexuality.
Built astir interviews pinch a fistful of erstwhile lovers and friends, Kijak spills backstage specifications from Hudson’s individual life, ranging from whom he shagged to really he arranged specified trysts successful nan first place. A secretly recorded telephone telephone reveals Hudson to beryllium a “size queen,” audibly excited by nan imaginable of gathering a tall, well-endowed stranger. The whopper — which underscores nan benignant of salacious rumors Kijak gravitates toward successful nan movie — comes from Joe Carberry, who recalls, “Rock had a sizable dick, but he tried to put that point up my ass, and I couldn’t do it.”
At a clip erstwhile nan mean American would beryllium hard-pressed to sanction a azygous Rock Hudson film, is this what audiences really request to cognize astir nan star? Or mightiness nan filmmaker person spent a small much clip connected nan biographical basics? Certainly, nan wealthiness of seldom-seen photos, news clippings and artifacts suggests location exists capable earthy worldly for a much well-rounded image of nan prima pinch nan quadrate jaw and dimpled chin. Instead, astir each nan footage Kijak pulls from Hudson’s filmography has been bent to remark connected his intersexual identity. Even head Allison Anders’ impassioned defense of Hudson’s acting chops quickly gets derailed by scuttlebutt astir him hitting connected “Giant” co-star James Dean.
What history we get feels arsenic tabloid-ready arsenic Ryan Murphy’s “Hollywood.” The doc describes really Roy Fitzgerald (the actor’s sanction erstwhile he arrived successful Los Angeles) dropped an early antheral partner erstwhile Henry Wilson, nan caput of talent for Selznick Studios, took an liking successful him. It was Wilson who rechristened nan Illinois stud “Rock Hudson,” arsenic he did nan different matinee idols he represented: Tab Hunter, Troy Donahue, Guy Madison, etc. Wilson “taught them really to beryllium heterosexual,” nan movie explains, which was existent to a constituent — Hudson sewage his teeth fixed, learned to little his sound and much — though it ignores nan anticipation that Hudson mightiness person swung some ways astatine a clip erstwhile specified labels were acold much fluid.
Kijak’s sources struggle to comprehend really Hudson’s woman of 3 years, Phyllis Gates, could person gone to her sedate insisting she didn’t cognize Rock was gay. The matrimony was evidently arranged (Gates was a caput for Wilson, whose Svengali-like power of Hudson’s image extended to giving Confidential mag a hateful scoop astir Tab Hunter successful bid to termination a communicative connected Hudson), but that doesn’t needfully mean it was without emotions aliases intimacy. But talk of bisexuality doesn’t fresh Kijak’s narrative, which downplays each nan women Hudson kissed successful his profession successful bid to make a constituent astir nan smooch he shared pinch “Dynasty” co-star Linda Evans, aft he’d already been diagnosed pinch HIV.
Queer artists and movie historians person been parsing Hudson’s oeuvre for years, reference betwixt nan lines of each performance, nan astir notorious being 1959’s racy (for its time) “Pillow Talk,” successful which Hudson plays a consecutive bachelor who tries to seduce Doris Day’s characteristic by allowing her to judge he’s gay. The layers of deception twisted up successful that domiciled person ever been fascinating, arsenic are nan cues Hudson utilized to awesome nan assemblage that his characteristic is only pretending.
But what is achieved by perverting nan volition of specified clips now? There’s an evident campy quotient, arsenic audiences chuckle astatine lines that sound for illustration double entendres today. There’s Gig Young telling Hudson his days arsenic a “gay joined bachelor” are up successful “Strange Bedfellows” (1965), aliases a reedited segment from “All That Heaven Allows,” tweaked by editor Claire Didier to look arsenic if Hudson is connected nan receiving extremity of a statement — “Let maine springiness you immoderate proposal arsenic a friend: Marry him” — that was really delivered to Jane Wyman. Director Mark Rappaport sewage location 3 decades earlier pinch his archival mock doc “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies,” and while nan gimmick still plays, selectively sampling Hudson’s oeuvre successful this measurement trains audiences to look for nan cheery subtext successful roles that were intended arsenic thing but. Doesn’t that simply reenforce his reasons for not owning his identity?
Hudson was hardly nan only closeted personage successful Hollywood, and A-listers are still making compromises coming to support careers that they — aliases nan manufacture that employs them — judge mightiness suffer if their fans discovered that … gasp, they’d been acting each along. It’s 1 of nan galore ironies of stardom that audiences desperately want to judge nan dream that movies represent, but they can’t thief themselves from seeking retired specifications that will inevitably shatter illusion. Was Hollywood homophobic successful nan 1960s? Of course, but conjecture who other had a problem pinch cheery group astatine nan time: nan remainder of America. (References to Hudson’s relationship pinch Ronald and Nancy Reagan are particularly painful, fixed their deficiency of support amid nan AIDS crisis.)
Openly cheery writer Armistead Maupin suggests that by alluding to Hudson successful his “Tales of nan City” serial, he showed nan world, “This personification exists, but he can’t show you who he is.” After Hudson’s death, Maupin outed nan prima to People magazine, a determination he stands by here. Perhaps that strategy makes consciousness successful an era of oversharing and OnlyFans, but Kijak’s doc proves rather bladed erstwhile it comes to communicating what Hudson’s existent characteristic mightiness person been like. “I could ne'er freely opportunity I wanted to beryllium an character erstwhile I grew up, because that’s sissy stuff,” Hudson admits astatine 1 point, suggesting that he learned to walk arsenic consecutive agelong earlier moving to Hollywood. While nan movie grapples pinch what it intends for a cheery prima to cooperate successful nan erasure of his ain identity, each that innuendo reduces Rock/Roy to nan 1 point he didn’t want nan world to spot him as, alternatively than acknowledging really good he played nan part. In short, Hudson was a amended character than nan movie gives him in installments for.