Remembering Hollywood legend Rock Hudson

The actor who appeared in movies such as “Giant” and “Pillow Talk” was born 98 years ago today

Remembering Hollywood legend Rock Hudson

He’s still considered to this day one of Hollywood’s biggest sex symbols ever, and one of it’s first heartthrobs, Rock Hudson, the legendary actor whose career accidentally became a shining example of Hollywood’s classical “star system”-style career promotion. Born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr in Winnetka, Illinois on November 17, 1925, Rock Hudson went through several jobs before finally settling as an actor, including a truck driver, and even listed as a soldier during World War II. During the 1940’s, his artistic name was changed to Rock Hudson by his first manager talent scout Henry Willson, that came up with it by combining the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River. Later in his career Hudson admitted that he hated the name.
The actor escalated quickly to leading man in Hollywood after his discreet film debut in the late 1940’s, and with movies such as “Magnificent Obsession” (1954) and “All That Heaven Allows” (1955), he firmed his name as one of Hollywood’s brightest stars of it’s time. Also in 1955 he starred in what would become known as one of his best movies, “Giant” directed by George Stevens, alongside the new and young rising star James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. However, during the filming, there was reportedly tension between Dean and Hudson, that also played rivals in the movie. The tension between both actors can be witnessed in the movies most intense scenes of confrontation, Dean, known to improvise, for several times annoyed Rock Hudson by not following the script. Later that year James Dean as we all know, died at age 24 from a car crash before the movie was released. When it was released, in 1956, curiously, Dean’s presence continued to “haunt” Hudson, when both actors were nominated for their roles in “Giant”, at the Academy Awards for Oscars in the Best Actor category. As the 1950’s approached an end, Hudson’s career continued successfully with a string of romantic comedies co-starring Doris Day, most notably “Pillow Talk” (1959). During the 1960’s however, with a whole new generation of movie stars and acting styles, Hudson’s career started to decline, despite still appearing in several movies, however, in roles which he was unhappy to take, such as “Seconds” (1966), “Tobruk” (1967), and “Ice Station Zebra” (1968). By the early 1970’s, disappointed with how the Hollywood movie industry had changed, Hudson turned to television and found a hit starring in the popular mystery series “McMillan & Wife” (1971-1977). He continued to appear in several TV shows and series as well as movies throughout the 1970’s until the early 1980’s, his last role was as a guest star on the fifth season of the popular soap opera “Dynasty” in 1984, where he played the role of a love interest to Linda Evans character. But by then also his health had started to decline, much due to alcoholism and being a heavy smoker, however, everything changed for Hudson when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984 and came out as gay shortly after. Since the 1950’s that his homosexuality was an open secret in Hollywood, known by many in the film industry during his lifetime, including former co-stars Julie Andrews, Mia Farrow, Elizabeth Taylor, and Susan Saint James and Carol Burnett. Rock Hudson was always discreet regarding his sexual orientation, specially due to Hollywood’s star system of the 1950’s where being openly gay would become a career-suicide move. On October 2, 1985, Rock Hudson passed away in his sleep from AIDS-related complications at his home in Beverly Hills at age 59, and became the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness. A week before his death, his publicist Tom Clark asked a catholic priest to visit, so Hudson, who was raised Roman Catholic and later identified as an atheist, could make a confession, received communion, and was administered last rites. Today, Rock Hudson remains an absolute Hollywood and movie icon and one of the most influential actors of all time, however, to many, with a legacy still haunted by the ghost of his untimely death due to AIDS.

Watch some key moments from Rock Hudson’s fantastic acting career

Rock Hudson and James Dean in character confronting themselves in “Giant”, also appearing as Hudson’s son is Dennis Hopper

Iconic scene of “Giant” where reportedly James Dean really hit Rock Hudson in the face during the confront of the characters, which contributed even more to the feud between both actors

Look back at a scene of “Pillow Talk”, 1959, featuring Rock Hudson and Doris Day

The 1985 Rock Hudson death news on American TV

For more on Rock Hudson, including a documentary, visit Pop Expresso videos

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