New documentary Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed, exploring the gay Hollywood heartthrob’s double life, death and legacy, is out in Australia next week.
Rock Hudson was one of Hollywood’s most celebrated leading men of the 1950’s and ‘60’s, and an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
He was a number one box-office superstar and got an Oscar nod for Giant, starring opposite Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean.
The new documentary explores the story of the Hollywood leading man’s double life. His public persona was carefully manufactured and maintained by the studio system that also guarded his private life.
Rock was privately living as a gay man who had multiple lovers. The actor’s reputation as a “man-izer” was an open secret in Hollywood, friends recall.
“Rock had a contact, somebody in West Hollywood, that could round up gorgeous men at a moment’s notice,” friend Armistead Maupin recalls in the film.
An ex-partner also recalls, “We were ordered never to have our picture taken together. Because somebody would know that we were gay.”
All That Heaven Allowed mixes clips from the actor’s films with new interviews with Hudson’s past partners, colleagues, and close friends.
In July 1985, Rock announced he had AIDS. Rock died just months months later at age 59 on October 2, 1985.
“Hudson’s death was a wakeup call for the public and helped elevate serious discussions of the treatment of HIV and AIDS into the mainstream, forcing a reckoning both socially and politically,” the film’s synopsis states.
‘Right there under everyone’s noses’
Director Stephen Kijak said he was determined not to frame the actor’s life as a tragedy.
“It wasn’t that long ago when it was really hard to be gay. Publicly, your life would be ruined,” he told the New York Times.
But Rock “was having this kind of great rampant, randy gay sex life right there under everyone’s noses, but seemingly living without a care,” he said.
“There wasn’t the kind of angsty, oh-I-wish-I-could-just-be-an-out-gay-man,” Kijak said.
“It was a generation that I don’t think considered that to be an option. Or even something that they would want.”
Kijak said Hudson ended up “being culturally, politically and socially a catalyst” in ways often overlooked today.
“He’s faded away. Who were the big marquee names from the ’50s who everybody knows?” Kijak said.
“It’s Marilyn Monroe. It’s James Dean. If anything, people probably remember him for having died of AIDS in the ’80s.”
But Kijak said All That Heaven Allowed features “a short stack of gay men who were in his life.”
“Either lovers, playmates, a wingman, a co-star, a best pal. People he revealed himself to,” he said.
“An arc of gay men that takes you from pre-Stonewall, pre-gay liberation to the other side of the Aids crisis.
“It’s Rock’s life that could have been [seen] through the lens of these guys.”
Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed is out in Australia digitally on October 23.
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