Rock Hudson (1990)
Made five years after the actor’s death from AIDS, Rock Hudson focuses on his relationships with wife Phyllis Gates and lover Marc Christian, whose suit against the Hudson estate opens the movie. Regardless of their authenticity, as a dramatic device these relationships sensitively depict the torment of a man who must hide who he is in a world that doesn’t accept homosexuality.
As this biopic is based on court transcripts from the suit and on the book 'My Husband, Rock Hudson', it is not surprising that both Gates and Christian are depicted as innocent victims caught up in Hudson's web of deceit. Yet what's refreshing is that Hudson is similarly portrayed as a victim of society's demand to keep his sexual preferences secret from an adoring public. In this regard, Thomas Ian Griffith competently portrays the star's anguish as he journeys from wide-eyed innocent to death bed. Regretfully he seems incapable of displaying any of Hudson’s effortless charm and charisma.
Told in a matter-of-fact non-sensational manner, the scenes involving homosexuality consist mostly of meaningful glances and plenty of hugging - BUT NO KISSING. It would be at least another 20 years before TV was ready for a more realistic depiction.
Though the movie opens with the disclaimer - Composite characters and resequencing of events have been used for dramatic purposes, the following anomalies still require further attention.
Phyllis Gates is depicted as being madly in love with Hudson and totally unaware of his homosexuality when they married. In his book 'The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson', Robert Hofler paints a different picture. He states that Gates was a lesbian who met Hudson at a gay party, and later tried to blackmail him after their marriage ended.
Biopic opens with Marc Christian successfully suing the Hudson estate for millions of dollars for the emotional distress he suffered after learning that the star had concealed his disease while continuing to have sex with him. In June 2009, Christian died of "pulmonary problems" caused by years of heavy smoking. He never tested positive for the AIDS virus.
Biopic recreates Hudson infamously needing 38 takes to deliver the line "Pretty soon you're going to have to get a bigger blackboard" in his debut movie Fighter Squadron. Apart from other differences (changing the shot from interior to exterior and from technicolour to black and white), the biopic has Hudson finally getting the line right. In reality it was eventually given to another actor. Hudson was provided with another line, which he delivered off-screen.