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Rock Hudson: Rugged Gay Actor

Rock HudsonRock Hudson was not, regardless of what people say

I find it surprising that back in the mid-'80s some people were surprised to learn that Rock Hudson was gay. At that time, the star of Magnificent Obsession, Giant, and the television series McMillan & Wife became the best-known person with AIDS in the world. After all, since I was a little kid I'd heard stories about Hudson being gay.

Looking at the above photograph, today's jaded crowd will surely assert that it's so obvious that Rock Hudson was gay. Just look at him! I totally disagree.

In fact, I don't see anything "obvious" about Hudson's sexual orientation in the photo. And no, I'm not blind. The guy just looks like a man – gay, straight, anything in between – doing his best to appear classy, or at least what used to pass for classy. [See "Rock Hudson: Dark and Handsome Stranger Documentary."]

Rugged Rock

I usually don't find Rock Hudson very convincing as a "classy" type à la Cary Grant. Although I've always enjoyed Hudson in his comedies with Doris Day, to me he always comes across as an actor – however likable – playing the role of a suave seducer. [See "Doris Day: Rock Hudson Remembered".]

On the other hand, I've always found Rock Hudson fully believable in rugged roles, such as his gardener romancing middle-class widow Jane Wyman in Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows and, especially, his Texan rancher in George Stevens' Giant, married to Elizabeth Taylor while competing with James Dean.

Rock Hudson photo

Now, I should add that the above photo is from the August 1967 issue of Movie Life magazine. But more importantly, you ask, What was Rock Hudson not?

Well, the answer, as per Movie Life, is the following: Regardless of what people say, Hudson was not "Going to the Dogs." The magazine wasn't referring to his film career; the promo piece featured eight photos of the actor and his canine pals.

The end of Rock Hudson's stardom

In truth, by the late '60s Hudson's movie stardom, despite a well-received "serious" role in John Frankenheimer's 1966 thriller Seconds, was headed straight to the kennel. Think A Fine Pair, Hornet's Nest, and Blake Edwards' box office disaster Darling Lili, which all but ruined Julie Andrews' film career.

The television series McMillan & Wife, co-starring Susan Saint James, boosted Hudson's popularity in the early '70s, but only on the small screen. He was never to star in another major motion picture – unless, that is, you'd call Pretty Maids All in a Row, Embryo, Avalanche, and The Mirror Crack'd grade-A productions.

At the age of 59, Rock Hudson died of AIDS complications on October 2, 1985.

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