A trove of archival footage accompanies this whirlwind overview of the life of Rock Hudson, one of the Hollywood studio system’s brightest stars and closeted member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
For a period of time in Hollywood, you couldn’t find a sturdier paragon of old-school American masculinity than Rock Hudson. The chiselled and charismatic star of All that Heaven Allows, Giant and many other American classics enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame and the adoration of filmgoers around the world. Hudson, born Roy Harold Scherer Jr, was a gay man, who spent most of his life in the closet. An open secret in Hollywood, Hudson spent much of his time dodging the rumours and prying eyes of gossip columns and struggling with the bigoted social mores of the 1950s and 60s. Hudson was only ever outed after his death from AIDS in 1985, a tragic conclusion to a life spent simultaneously in the spotlight and behind the curtain.
In a moment, this relentlessly private man took the form of a trailblazer, a well-loved figure who became the embodiment of the essential humanity of the LGBTQ+ community, in death. Acclaimed filmmaker Stephen Kijak directs this illuminating portrait of the life and loves of Rock Hudson, following his rise to fame and the terrible burden of having to hide his true self from the world. The story is constructed from unparalleled access to archival footage and imagery, as well as snatches of interviews from Hudson himself, his co-stars, handlers and lovers. All the while, Kijak weaves into the story clips from Hudson’s films which take on a new meaning with the added context of the life Hudson led. By tracing the roots of queer representation in Hollywood, the film ultimately asks hard questions about how far we have come, and how far there still is to go. A stirring, heartbreaking tribute to one of the great stars of a bygone era. — Tom Augustine