What Rock Hudson liked least & most during his decades-long acting career

Vintage actor Rock Hudson

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Here are some interviews with star Rock Hudson from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, during which he talked about his favorite (and least favorite) parts of his hugely successful career.

The following decade, the ’80s, was certainly the most tumultuous for Rock.

For one thing, he revealed that he was gay — which, while somewhat of an open secret in Hollywood, shocked many fans. Unfortunately, the revelation was made public because he was already suffering from AIDS.

In October 1985, just shy of his 60th birthday, Rock Hudson died due to complications from AIDS.

Millions mourned the loss of the shy man who was larger than life onscreen, and whose legacy in American cinema would still be fondly recalled even decades later.

Vintage actor Rock Hudson in the fifties
Rock Hudson (born Roy Harold Scherer, Junior) November 17, 1925 – October 2, 1985

Hollywood finds Rock Hudson (1957)

Oneonta Star (Oneonta, NY) February 27, 1957

When Hollywood finds a new great in the field of acting, it generally plays the poor guy or gal in enough roles so that the regular moviegoer is slightly confused. Sort of like seeing a different person play the hero in the soap opera on afternoon television.

And Hollywood has found Rock Hudson. And Rock Hudson will play every conceivable role possible, until either he objects, or the box office begins to slump.

Actor Rock Hudson in the mid 1950s (2)

Rock Hudson’s latest role, however, is one to which he is aptly suited. It is as a hero, in the Air Force.

He plays the true-life role of Col Dean Hess, a parson and ace pilot of two wars. The picture is “Battle Hymn” co-starring Martha Hyer, Dan Duryea, and a host of other excellent actors and actresses.

The story concerns the true-to-life feelings of a parson turned pilot who bombs an orphanage during World War Two, and returns to the Air Force during the Korean War because of a guilty feeling stemming from his action during World War Two.

The plot, because it is true, is unique. Probably a fiction writer could make it more dramatic, but I doubt if anyone could make it more interesting.

battle hymn movie poster rock hudson 1957

MORE: About ‘Gone With The Wind,’ the movie that became the highest-grossing film of all time

Shy Rock Hudson says he dislikes movie love scenes (1960)

By James Bacon – St. Louis Post Dispatch (Missouri) July 12, 1960

Rock Hudson, one of the screen’s most in-demand stars, is back at work after more than a year of idleness. And he couldn’t be happier.

For months, fan magazines shot endless layouts showing him on his yacht at nearby Newport Beach, making it seem he prefers sailing to moviemaking. Not so, says he.

“How many times,” he asks, “can you go out on a boat?”

Rock blames his long layoff in part, at least, on Universal-International’s inability to find scripts for him.

“Somebody goofed,” says Rock. “I’m an actor who occasionally likes to sail. Not a sailor who occasionally likes to act.”

If Rock’s layoff followed a flop, it would not be hard to understand. His followed a smash — ”Pillow Talk,” in which he was hailed as a comedy find.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk - 1959

“I like comedy,” he says, “because when you make love for laughs, it’s not so embarrassing to do it in front of the crew.”

Rock had instructed his agent to look for comedy scripts. Good ones don’t come around too often, which is one reason he was idle so long.

“Pillow Talk” producer Ross Hunter sees Hudson as a new Cary Grant.

“I never could see him on a horse,” observes Hunter. “He’s just too big for those poor horses. Rock is certainly one of the screen’s most handsome men and blessed with lots of charm. He belongs in a drawing room, not a corral.”

Most other producers — and apparently the fans — think otherwise.

John Wayne says that Hudson is the only one of the new crop who poses a threat to him, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable, the long and hard-riding core of rugged screen heroes.

Rock Hudson in plaid from 1950

Not so long ago, a theater Owners’ group nominated Rock as the new king of Hollywood. Rock can’t see himself as a king.

“It’s nonsense,” he comments. ”I don’t want to be king because the next step is dethronement. I don’t know how this stuff gets started. Court jester, maybe, but king, never.”

It sounds modest coming from an actor, but Rock is that rarity — a modest actor. He’s so modest he’s downright shy. Recently. I saw a teenager gush over him so much that Rock blushed. It was the first time I ever saw an actor blush.

That shyness is part of his appeal, and Rock has an unusual explanation for it:

”Most tall men are shy. We’re so high up, we can’t hear everything going on — so we have to be the silent type.”

ALSO SEE: Gary Cooper’s mountain hideaway: How the Hollywood star adored Aspen (1949)

Vintage actor Rock Hudson - 1950s 1960s (2)

He’s eloquent, though, in his dislike of screen lovemaking.

“Maybe I look clumsy because I don’t even like to kiss anybody goodbye in a train station or an airport, let alone on a soundstage in front of a whole crew of workers.

“I know it’s pleasant work and millions of men would love to take my place but I never did like a public display of emotion. In movie-making, you have to be intimate yet impersonal in love scenes. It’s like trying to make love in an arena.”

Vintage movie actor Rock Hudson - 50s (4)

Rock, whose marriage to non-professional Phyllis Gates ended in divorce, says his most embarrassing moment in 12 years of moviemaking came at the start of the picture — “Magnificent Obsession” — that made him a star.

“I was introduced to Jane Wyman for the first time in my life. We had barely said ‘How do you do’ when the director had us making passionate love in front of a whole stage of people.”

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Hudson is at work once more — down in Mexico shooting ”Day of the Gun,” with Kirk Douglas. It’s no Cary Grant type comedy.

Rock, like it or not, is destined to take his place along with the other bashful titans of the screen.

Most movie people are at a loss to explain the box office appeal of the shy, silent heroes, but one producer had a ready answer.

‘Women love bashful men because there are so few of them left anymore. Let’s face it, the wolves took over long ago.”

Actor Rock Hudson in the mid 1950s (3)

Rock Hudson says he feels no different at 40 (1966)

by Bob Thomas – Lansing State Journal (Michigan) April 1, 1966

Hollywood (AP) — As in all official biographies of movie Stars, Rock Hudson’s does not include the year of his birth.

He is quick to supply the information: “I’m 40.”

Rock Hudson at 40 shows no signs of serious deterioration, physically or in his career. In fact, he appears spectacularly handsome, quietly self-assured.

“I don’t feel any different,” he admitted. “I’ve been hearing for years that unusual things happen to you after you turn 40. Nothing like that has hit me yet. Ask me later.

“Being 40 doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t seem any different from the 30s, and I enjoyed them immensely. I’d say the 30s were the best years, the teens next, and the 20s next. They’ve all been pretty good.”

ALSO SEE: How Cary Grant lives: The movie star at home (1940)

Vintage movie actor Rock Hudson - 50s (1)

Rock’s life is changing, even if he doesn’t feel it. The change is in his career status; his present film, “Tobruk,” is the last under his contract to Universal.

It has been 18 years since Roy Fitzgerald of Winnetka, Illinois, arrived with the new name of Rock Hudson at Universal City.

“The first thing they wanted to do was change my name to Rock,” he recalled. “I was put in a big office in the publicity building and the entire staff fired questions at me. I would have bolted from the room, except that they had me in a corner, and I couldn’t get out.”

ALSO SEE: Longing for an uncluttered life? Doris Day tells you how to get organized! (1959)

To jog his memory of those early years, I produced his official biography, which includes a list of all his pictures. He shuddered noticeably.

The record showed that he made eight films in his first 18 months at Universal, nearly all of them remarkably forgettable.

“I guess the high point of my early career came with “Taza, Son of Cochise,'” he mused. “They slapped a black wig on me, and I was instant Indian.”

Vintage actor Rock Hudson - 1950s 1960s (4)

But immediately following “Taza” came “The Magnificent Obsession.” The tear-jerking remake established Rock as a box-office draw.

He followed up that smash with “Bengal Brigade.” The mere thought of it made Rock bury his head in his arms.

Further down the list came “Pillow Talk” and “Lover Come Back,” which rank with “Magnificent Obsession” as his favorites at the studio. Lesser bedroom farces followed, increasing his desire to escape from the contract. With “Tobruk” it will all be over.

Rock’s plans, now that he’s free? “I don’t have any. I think I’ll take a vacation.” With three unreleased films — “Blindfold,” “Seconds” and “Tobruk” — he can afford to.

Actor Rock Hudson in the mid 1950s with his mom

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Rock Hudson says ‘no’ to bumper stickers (1966)

by Lucianne S. Cummings – Pasadena Independent (Pasadena, California)  August 05, 1966

Hollywood — “Gulp!” gulped Rock Hudson when asked if he knew there was a bumper sticker driving around Beverly Hills reading ‘Rock Hudson for President.’

“I sure hope that isn’t so, but with the current movie star craze for politics here in California, I guess the Democrats have to strike back somehow.”

Vintage actor Rock Hudson - 1950s 1960s (3)

Rock Hudson comes about as close to being a matinee idol as a movie star can get these days — and girls, he really is handsome, very, very tall and single!

He likes tomato juice and cold salad for lunch (‘Because I just got up’), and a Rock Hudson smile in the flesh is even more devastating than those he gives Doris Day on film.

“A studio executive once tried to get me to spell my name ‘Roc,’ and I said, ‘Are you kidding? Rock is bad enough.”

But the name didn’t seem to do him a hit of harm at the box office in this era of tabs and rips. He has just completed his fiftieth movie, “Tobruk”, this time Doris Dayless.

“This one is a war movie and gets me away from all those frothy comedies I’ve been making, and I like it,” said the tall, handsome actor. “My favorite, though, has always been ‘Giant.'” Hudson received an Academy Award nomination for his work in the movie version of Edna Ferber’s book.

Actor Rock Hudson in the mid 1950s (1)

“The thing I like least about making a movie is when they want me to take my shirt off,” he said with a grin. “I won’t do it now unless the story really calls for it. I always felt as if I had to stand at high attention. What are you supposed to do with your hands?”

Among life’s other embarrassing moments Rock remembers a ‘This Is Your Life’ program a number of years ago.

“They dug up people I hadn’t seen for years, and didn’t care about even then. Some of the people they found I didn’t even remember. Oh well,” he sighed, ”My mother liked it.”

Vintage Rock Hudson promo shot - Suit and tie from the 1950s

Rock made an offbeat horror tale just before “Tobruk.”

“We took the picture ‘Seconds,’ to the Cannes Film Festival,” he recalled, ”and all during the screening, the audience kept whistling and I thought, ‘Can’t I ever get away from the fans?’ It didn’t hit me until afterward that in France they whistle instead of boo.”

But a few ‘boos’ don’t seem to affect Rock Hudson. When asked what his plans for the future would be if he could have anything his way, he replied, ‘Just making movies, that’s all.'”

Vintage movie actor Rock Hudson - 50s (3)

Rock Hudson still a matinee idol and having fun (1977)

By Kenneth Turan – The Tampa Times (Florida) August 5, 1977

Washington — “My life has been backwards,” Rock Hudson says, regarding his second double J&B and soda and everyone in its immediate vicinity with a certain mellowness.

“When I was in my 20s — I call those the dark ages — I did not go out, I didn’t have any fun, I studied my tail off trying to learn what this thing is they call acting. Now, past 50, I’m out to have fun.”

Vintage actor Rock Hudson - 1950s 1960s (1)

Fun at this particular moment translates as sitting at the bar of the Gaithersburg, Md., Holiday Inn, hard by Shady Grove where Hudson opened last night with a star turn as King Arthur in “Camelot.”

And though he is very much the just-slightly-aging matinee idol, complete with open shirt, wavy hair and a blandly resonant, terribly soothing voice, it’s Hudson’s size that is most striking.

He’s 6 foot 4, big enough to have been called ”The Baron of Beefcake”‘ in his heartthrob days, for costar Jane Wyman to have called him “The Great White Hope,” and when he walks into a room, he seems as much like a former all-pro linebacker as anything else.

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There is an interesting air of polished confidence about Rock Hudson, something of the calm after the storm, as if the worst has already happened.

Vintage movie actor Rock Hudson - 50s (2)

He has, in fact, survived some of the harshest reviews ever to befall mortal man — a nasty fellow in London said one of his dance routines “could only be equaled if Yogi Bear danced Fred Astaire” — only to find that the masses, especially women of a certain age, blithely continue to go crazy over him.

Yet there has been something puzzling about Hudson’s success. A 1970 Motion Picture Herald survey had him tied for third place with Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor in a list of the ’60s top moneymakers, but as one critic has commented, ”Of all the actors who were box office champs, he must be considered the least individual, the least positive.”

Perhaps this itself is the secret, perhaps his non-threatening nature is the very essence of his appeal, but Hudson himself absolutely refuses to speculate.

“A mirror is the biggest liar there is, you never see yourself as others see you,” Hudson says. All he personally needs to know is that “I have always wanted to act, always, and I’m pleased to report I’m an actor.” His career, as he describes it, seems very much a case of “The Little Engine That Could.”

Vintage actor Rock Hudson

Stories have grown up around Hudson’s entrance into acting, stories about him being discovered while delivering mail to an agent’s doorstep, but he bristles at their very mention.

“No way, that’s such a lie,” he says. “First of all, nobody’s discovered. Everybody likes a Cinderella story — what’s more boring than saying I went out on interviews, applied for the job and got it? That’s not good copy.”

The mailman story is one of Hudson’s legacies from his days as just about the last of the big, studio-promoted stars, the days when one newspaper called him ”the latest rooster to be specially-bred for the Hollywood barnyard, coddled in a tray labeled He-Man (Romantic).”

[Hollywood gossip columnist] Hedda is gone, Louella is gone, even some of the studios are gone, but Rock Hudson remains, to tell us what it was like.

Rock Hudson reading (1961)

“I’d go on these long, exhausting, 25-city tours, meeting the press all over the country, talking about myself all day long every day for a month and a half, and I really had nothing to say. ‘Do you like records?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you like steaks?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you sleep in the nude?’ ‘Yes.’

“All the dumb questions, and I wasn’t sophisticated enough to handle the other questions.

“People would ask ‘What’s going to happen next?’ and I’d say, ‘How the hell do I know?”

Yet, bad as that was, there is still harsher heritage, one that Hudson still talks about with more than some bitterness. They went and changed his name.

“It was changed for me; it wasn’t easy then and it still isn’t,” he says shortly. “They did it because it was done in those days — they told me Roy Fitzgerald was too long for a marquee. I was 22, young and a hick, so I agreed.”

The problem was, he is sure, that “the name became a hurdle. Nobody with a name like mine could possibly act.”

ALSO SEE: John Wayne: How the legendary actor reflected on life at the end of his career

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