Ten Outstanding And Beloved Rock Hudson Flicks

Apr 9, 2004

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Born Roy Sherer in Winnetka, Illinois, Rock Hudson began his movie career in 1948 based on his photogenically beautiful looks, but with acting lessons he certainly improved and copped an Oscar nomination for 1956’s Giant. I haven’t seen all of his starring roles so it’s possible that I’ve overlooked a gem, but these ten noted here are undoubtedly among his best cinematic work. I remember watching him on TV in McMillan and Wife and Dynasty, then being shocked (as most of us were) at his death from AIDS in 1985. He covered up his homosexuality so well with the tangible chemistry he charmed his leading ladies and audience with.

These movies range from bedroom comedies to tearful dramas with a juicy mystery, a bizarre sci-fi thriller and a rascally western thrown in. I’m confident that you will find Hudson eminently watchable and relish these ten reasons why he is known as one of history’s sexiest and brightest stars.

In order of their theatrical release:

Giant (1956): George Stevens, director. Edna Farber, novel, Fred Guiol, screenplay. Hudson is a Texas oilman married to Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean gets on his nerves by trying to bring him down because Dean loves his wife. They age many decades in this epic soap opera and their passionate struggle with each other and themselves is all-consuming and gloriously fun to watch.

Written On The Wind (1956): Douglas Sirk, director. Robert Wilder, novel, George Zuckerman, screenplay. Hudson and Robert Stack have always been best friends and work for Stack’s father’s successful company, but problems begin when Lauren Bacall marries Stack before Hudson confesses his love for her. Stack stays dry for a year, but when the doctor admits Stack may be sterile, he goes into a tailspin and becomes jealous of Hudson who everybody seems to love more. It’s another drama, fifties’ style, but it moves along well and is quite haunting and engaging.

All That Heaven Allows (1956): Douglas Sirk, director. Edna L. Lee, story, Peg Fenwick, screenplay. Hudson is paired again with Jane Wyman (Magnificent Obsession), but this one is much shorter and easier to watch. Hudson, a tree farmer, falls in love with the widow Wyman, at least fifteen years older. She’s falling for his rustic, country-boy appeal, but faces being ostracized by her spoiled kids and country club set. I swooned over Hudson as usual, but also the gorgeous scenery and sentimental, gripping story.

Pillow Talk (1959): Michael Gordon, director. Russell Rouse, story, Maurice Richlin, screenplay. Hudson in his first comedy with Doris Day. They share a two-party phone that allows her to overhear his overused lines with swooning women all day long and she gives him an earful. Then one day he recognizes her in real life by her voice and at once wants to play footsy, so he disguises his voice for her! Sexy, goofy fun.

Lover Come Back (1961): Delbert Mann, director. Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning, screenplay. Great sequel to Pillow Talk, which has Hudson and Day fuming and scheming in the ad industry to best the other. Tony Randall has a bigger role as the baffled chess piece caught in the middle. More laughs are guaranteed.

Come September (1961): Robert Mulligan, director. Stanley Roberts and Robert Russell, writers. Hudson usually vacations at his Italian villa in September, but comes in July impatient for his Italian lover, Gina Lollobrigida. She forgoes marrying another and his villa’s caretaker hopes to cover up that he’s using it as a hotel while Hudson is gone. Sandra Dee, a budding psychiatrist, and Bobby Darin are a cute couple who can’t keep up with the older folk. Hudson drinks, dances and tries to seduce Lollobrigida while being an example to the kids. Wonderfully witty and disarming film.

Strange Bedfellows (1965): Melvin Frank, director. Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, writers. Hudson again is infatuated with Lollobrigida, but this time she’s quickly wed before the problems begin. She’s a radical who pickets for causes that Hudson cannot live with and they separate, but in order to be promoted at work he needs to either divorce her or try to live with her. Love isn’t very easy, but sure is a lot of laughs and ahhh moments!

Seconds (1966): John Frankenheimer, director. David Ely, novel, Lewis John Carlino, screenplay. Hudson gets into sci-fi with this one where an elderly widower in the future undergoes an operation that turns him into young Rock Hudson. Life isn’t all a dream, though, but soon becomes a nightmare when other ‘seconds’ visit him to remind him of his obligations and real identity. Spooky and an eye-opening experience (brief nudity on Hudson’s part, more on Salome Jens’).

The Undefeated (1969): Andrew V. McLagen, director. Stanley Hough, story, James Lee Barrett, screenplay. Hudson with a moustache and a southern lilt is an ex-confederate colonel moving his family and other southerns to Mexico, but meets up with ex-union colonel John Wayne herding wild horses to Mexico and they become allies against bandits and the French. Their friendship is put to the ultimate test then. Good onery fun!

The Mirror Crack’d (1980): Guy Hamilton, director. Agatha Christie, novel, Jonathan Hale, screenplay. Hudson in his last meaty role on the big screen plays a film director hoping to help his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, make a comeback, but a fan Taylor was listening to at a cast party is poisoned and her murderer must be found. Angela Lansbury, Tony Curtis, Kim Novak and Geraldine Chaplin do what they do best, but the film belongs to Hudson and Taylor, still a bewitching couple as is the sleepy England village setting.

Honorable Mention goes to Send Me No Flowers, another romantic comedy with Day and Randall. I’ve been waiting for over a month for Howard Hawks’ Man’s Favorite Sport?, but there’s still a long wait and it must be good. Bend of the River with Jimmy Stewart is a western that didn't sound offbeat enough for me. Hope you’ll enjoy my picks!

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