Leroy (Roy) Harold Scherer, Jr. was born on this day in 1925. Rock Hudson was blessed with the urbane charm, dashing good looks, & virile masculinity of Hollywood's classic matinee idol image. His image & talents were used to great effect romantic comedies, often paired with the equally magnetic Doris Day. One of the most popular movie stars of hisera, Hudson's screen career spanned 5 decades & was a true example of Hollywood's classical "star system" style career promotion. His early success was the result of careful cultivation & nurturing by major movie studio executives. While generally underappreciated for his skills as an actor, Hudson showed unexpected glimmers of brilliance, as in George Stevens' 1956 epic, Giant for which he received an Academy Award nomination. Known for his easy going demeanor off-screen, Hudson was well thought of by colleagues & seemed to enjoy a rich & happy life in the public eye. In truth, Hudson endured a deeply troubled private life, living a lie for the sake of his career, including going along with a studio arranged marriage. Manufactured to be Hollywood's ultimate ladies man, Rock Hudson was a lifelong gay man. It could be claimed that Rock Hudson was one of the greatest actors who ever lived: a gay man who became an international symbol of heterosexuality. In the more open 1970s, Hudson did become more visible in bars & bathhouses on the West Coast, & was even included post-coitally, anonymously but with his blessing, in Armistead Maupin's newspaper serial Tales of the City.
Tragically, after contracting the HIV virus & dying of AIDS in 1985, his private life was thrust public for the world to see. Hudson would become the first major Hollywood casualty of the misunderstood & widely feared disease. Hudson's sex life received detailed attention posthumously when a lover, Marc Christian (who died last week from a drug overdose), whom he had not informed of his diagnosis, successfully sued his estate. But he would not die in vain. His death not only opened people's eyes to the disease itself, it inspired his good friend Elizabeth Taylor to begin her decadesl ong role as a prominent AIDS activist, raising millions in the fight against the deadly disease that had robbed her friend of his golden years. He was always a favorite of mine & his passing brought me much sadness. I like the frothy comedies, but I most appreciate him in Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955) & Written on the Wind (1956), which were directed by Hudson's mentor, Douglas Sirk.