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Robert Osborne - June 2014
Remind Me

Robert Osborne on Rock Hudson

There was so much hysteria and hullabaloo connected to Rock Hudson's name during and after his circus-like demise from AIDS in October 1985, that events surrounding his death still, after almost 30 years, tend to color, even overshadow, the work he accomplished during his very public and celebrated life. That's one reason why this month on TCM we're going to offer you 21 reminders as to why Rock Hudson became the star he did. He was, in fact, the most popular actor on the planet in the late '50s and early '60s.

He's our June Star of the Month and we'll be bringing you a wide sampling of his movie work, including the first film in which he ever appeared, Raoul Walsh's 1948 Fighter Squadron, in which he's on screen for only a matter of seconds. We amp things up with the film in which he first caught moviegoer's rapt attention, 1952's Jimmy Stewart-Anthony Mann western, Bend of the River. The fourthbilled Hudson caused such an enthusiastic reaction when he emerged from the film's world premiere showing in Portland, Oregon, that it made newspaper headlines across the country.

We also have on tap the film that two years later officially made Rock a bona fide star (1954's romantic drama Magnificent Obsession with Jane Wyman), plus the George Stevens epic that two years after that propelled Hudson to superstar status (1956's Giant) and earned him an Academy Award® nomination.

You can also check out the 180-turn he made four years after Giant when he played a smooth, funny fellow in the Cary Grant mold with 1959's Pillow Talk and 1961's Lover Come Back. (Who had an inkling the ex-truck driver from Illinois could be such a consummate comedian?)

Then, for a further example of his wide range of talent, you can see Rock giving the most demanding and under-rated performance of his career in John Frankenheimer's 1966 psychological chiller Seconds, and catch one of his last important films before he began spending most of his working hours on television, Roger Vadim's first American- made theatrical film, the 1971 Pretty Maids All in a Row: in other words, the complete Hudson.

In one of my nine lives before TCM, I worked for a public relations firm in the Hollywood area, Patricia Fitzgerald and Associates, where Rock was a client. (It was during his Darling Lili-Pretty Maids-McMillan & Wife period). My first impression of him: at 6' 5", he was like a walking tree. My lasting impression: he was an extremely likeable fellow, magnetic, quick to laugh but someone who took his career very seriously, at that time searching without success for another motion picture role with the depth and opportunities of his own favorite Hudson role and performance, the one in Giant. At that time he was also still rueing the fact that he'd let his agent convince him ten years earlier to turn down Ben-Hur, which went on to bring Charlton Heston the kind of respect and placement in the Hollywood history books that RH was wanting for himself. Rock did end up in the history books, but certainly not in the context he would have wanted. Those lucky enough to know him are also well aware he deserved a much kinder final bow.

by Robert Osborne