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June 13, 2019

The Gentle Giant: Rock Hudson Through the Years

A charming leading man during the 1950s and 1960s, a celebrated heartthrob of the Hollywood Golden Age, Rock Hudson had a career spanned more than four decades, with nearly 70 films and several television productions in total. After making his acting debut in 1948 and later becoming a leading man in B adventure films, Hudson earned his stardom for the 1954 film Magnificent Obsession, co-starring Jane Wyman and directed by Sirk. His popularity soared even higher after starring in the George Stevens’ film Giant, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Leading Actor. Hudson’s career took a turn to romantic comedy in 1959 with Pillow Talk, co-starring Doris Day, which was a massive hit and one of Hudson’s most popular films. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to the motion picture industry. Hudson’s co-star in Giant, Elizabeth Taylor, also purchased a bronze plaque on the West Hollywood Memorial Walk for him following his death.

1967. Rock Hudson wearing Sterling & Hunt's double breasted suit in a photo for GQ magazine. Photo by John Bryson.

Hudson’s personal life was kept out of the tabloids by the actor himself and Henry Willson, his agent for 19 years. However, it was said that Hudson’s homosexuality was well known in Hollywood, with claims from his colleagues such as Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett. On June 5, 1984, Hudson received the news of his being HIV positive, although he kept it in secret and continued his work while traveling to France and other countries seeking treatment. On July 25, 1985, Hudson’s diagnosis was revealed, making him the first American celebrity to openly admit having AIDS. At the Hollywood AIDS benefit, Commitment to Life hold on September 1985, due to his being too ill to attend, Hudson sent a telegram, “I am not happy that I am sick. I am not happy that I have AIDS. But if that is helping others, I can at least know that my own misfortune has had some positive worth.” He passed away in his sleep on the morning of October 2, 1985 at age 59, the first celebrity to die of AIDS.

In a 2015 interview with People, Doris Day, Hudson’s co-star in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, explained her friend’s state in July 1985, just before he went public with his diagnosis. “I hardly knew him,” Day recalled. “He was very sick. But I just brushed that off and I came out and put my arms around him and said ‘Am I glad to see you.’” Their last meeting was when Hudson boarded a small plane to get to the airport. “We kissed goodbye and he gave me a big hug and he held onto me,” said Day. “I was in tears. That was the last time I saw him – but he’s in heaven now.”

Below are the photos capturing the heartthrob of the Golden Age:

1940s. Rock Hudson in the early years. Photo by LGI Stock.

1940s-1950s. Rock Hudson lying sideways on the diving board of the pool at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.


1950. Rock Hudson at the Finlandia Baths, Hollywood, California.


1952. Rock Hudson at his North Hollywood home. Photo by Sid Avery.

1952. Rock Hudson in 'Scarlet Angel.'


1950-1960. Rock Hudson and his father talking over the open hood of a car.

1955. James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor at a cast party and publicity luncheon, prior to the beginning of production for the film 'Giant.'

February 8, 1956. Rock Hudson poses with his wife Phyllis Gates next to marlins they captured on during their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico.

November 24, 1956. Rock Hudson and director George Stevens on the set of the movie 'Giant.' Photo by Frank Worth.

November 24, 1956. Rock Hudson poses for a portrait with a lasso on the set of the movie 'Giant.' Photo by Frank Worth.

1956. Rock Hudson on a horse during the filming of 'Giant' near Marfa, Texas. Photo by Allan Grant.

1956. Rock Hudson walking in the streets of the capital city while visiting Rome. Photo by Franco Vitale.

1956. Joan Crawford enjoying a dance with Rock Hudson.

1957. Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall chat between scenes of 'Written in the Wind.'

1957. Rock Hudson trying to type in his trailer, but the fans are a bit distracting. On location in Grado, Italy for 'A Farewell to Arms.' Photo by Bob Willoughby.

November 23, 1957. Rock Hudson as a sea captain in 'Twilight for the Gods,' reads over his script at his dressing room door in Hollywood, California.

1958. Rock Hudson on the deck of his beach house, Malibu Beach, California.

1959. Rock Hudson at the beach in Los Angeles. Photo by Larry Barbier Jr.

1959. Rock Hudson studies his script for his new picture the film 'Pillow Talk.'

1960. Rock Hudson and Doris Day reclining on a sofa, laughing and holding drinks.

February 18, 1960. Rock Hudson and Linda Cristal on board a yacht.

March 5, 1962. Rock Hudson and Marilyn Monroe at the Golden Globes Awards.

March 5, 1962. Rock Hudson with Marilyn Monroe at the Golden Globe Awards.

April 9, 1962. Presenter Rock Hudson poses with Rita Moreno and her Oscar during the 34th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California.

1962. Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando and Gregory Peck at Universal.

1963. Rock Hudson fishing in a scene from the film 'My Favourite Sport.'

1965. Rock Hudson with his Schnauzer, Murphy.


1965. Rock Hudson wearing a dark blue jacket, with a white t-shirt, and a moustache.

1966. Rock Hudson enjoying a sunny day by the pool at a villa near Cannes.

1966. Rock Hudson on set of the Paramount Pictures movie 'Seconds.'

March 1, 1967. Rock Hudson lighting a cigarette in a photoshoot for GQ magazine.

March 7, 1967. Rock Hudson and his dog at his villa in Hollywood. Photo by Vittoriano Rastelli.

September 23, 1969. Rock Hudson sips a drink during a press conference held in his honor at the Savoy Hotel in London, United Kingdom. Photo by Laurence Harris.

1969. Rock Hudson as James Langdon in 'The Undefeated.'

1974. Headshot of Rock Hudson with a moustache in a studio portrait for the series 'McMillan and Wife.'

1980. Kim Novak, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor in a pub photo for 'The Mirror Crack'd.'

September 29, 1982. Rock Hudson handling NBC television camera. Photo by LIFE.

January 1985. Liza Minnelli, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor during 42nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Ron Galella.

January 26, 1985. Liza Minnelli and Rock Hudson with Elizabeth Taylor after she won the Cecil B. DeMille Award in Beverly HIlls at the Golden Globe Awards. Photo by Lennox McLendon.

July 18, 1985. Doris Day and Rock Hudson speak at a news conference in Monterey, California. Photo by Chris Hunter.



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