Blogs on Film

Tragedy and Triumphs of Rock Hudson

Anne Helen Petersen has written an intriguing, sad article about Rock Hudson and the gay agent who packaged him and other gay men as movie stars. She argues that Hudson’s sexuality actually made him more attractive to a certain segment of heterosexual women in the 1950s and 1960s precisely because he was handsome, charming, kind, and at the same time (from a straight woman’s viewpoint) asexual and therefore unthreatening. Petersen closes the piece with well-deserved praise for Hudson’s handling of his HIV infection and subsequent wasting away, which galvanized public sympathy for AIDS victims.

Hudson wasn’t a top-notch actor, but he was a genuine movie star. He will probably be most remembered for his massively popular films with the late Doris Day (who at the age of 87, put a new album out! Check out her chat with her pal and fan Paul McCartney). But what is Rock Hudson’s best film?

Some movie fans would argue for Giant, which remains highly watchable today despite it’s staggeringly long running time. But the scenes in that film which stay with you are mainly those with James Dean and/or Elizabeth Taylor rather than Hudson, whose character is much flatter than theirs.

So I am going to go instead with Seconds, which very few people even remember today. It features an atypical role for Hudson and he does well with it, maybe because he could identify with the main character, who had to pretend to be someone he was not in order to “pass”. My all-time favorite cinematographer, James Wong Howe, goes over the top with strange lenses and moving shots, starting with the Vertigo-esque opening titles, which amplifies tonally the weird story that that the film tells.