Rock Hudson in a press photo
Born in an apartment over a Walgreen's in Winnetka, Illinois, Roy Harold Scherer Jr. was coined "Rock Hudson" by a talent scout combining Rock of Gibraltor with the Hudson River. The rest is storied Hollywood history.
While living in a 10-bedroom Beverly Hills mansion dubbed "The Castle," Rock would regularly cook eggs in his nightshirt for his houseguests. Years prior, he rented a post-and-beam house in Studio City from 1951 to 1955, usually eating breakfast in his car alone at Bob's Big Boy Burbank.
Rock and his '55 Buick Special Convertible
The 6’5” heartthrob first sought attention propped up against his truck; outside the studio gates, he'd roll up his sleeves, and just stand there like some giant ad for sex. He has a disastrous acting debut, in which he took a whopping 38 takes to deliver his one line of the movie. But by 1952 Rock would become a leading man and trade his truck for a 1952 Oldsmobile. The car collection of Rock Hudson would also include a 1955 Buick Special Convertible, a 1956 Imperial, and a 1959 Chrysler New Yorker.
Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman
Rock Hudson achieved stardom working with Jane Wyman and director Douglas Sirk in the saturated Technicolor melodramas Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955). He appeared with Lauren Bacall in a third melodrama, Written on the Wind (1956). Allthree Douglas Sirk films are part of the Criterion Collection. The American cinema company writes about The Sirk-Hudson connection.
Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean
Rock's popularity soared with Giant (1956), a not surprising, sprawling, three-and-a-half hour, Texas-sized film with Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and a young Dennis Hopper. Both Hudson and Dean were Oscar-nominated for Best Actor.
Hollywood's Most Handsome Bachelor (1955)
At the peak of his popularity he transitioned from drama to romantic comedy, making Pillow Talk (1959) with Doris Day. "I think the reason people liked our movies is because they could tell how much we liked each other," recalled Doris.
Rock Hudson and Doris Day
Working outside his usual range, he may have delivered his finest performance in director John Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966), a sci-fi thriller and Criterion Collection film. In one of his personal favorites, he starred in the Cold War action thriller, Ice Station Zebra (1968). As a Confederate colonel, Rock befriends John Wayne in The Undefeated (1969). Rock Hudson and Bob’s Big Boy Burbank Hall-of-Famer Angie Dickinson co-starred in the French director Roger Vadim's erotic murder mystery, Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971).
Rock Hudson and Angie Dickinson
Almost a decade later, Rock Hudson earned top-bill in The Martian Chronicles (1980), based on Ray Bradbury's novel dealing with the exploration of Mars and the inhabitants there. The TV miniseries still maintains a devout and loyal following.
Rock Hudson as Colonel John Wilder
Although his sexual orientation was hidden from public, female co-stars like Liz Taylor and Angie Dickinson claimed to have known. "The thing about Rock is he was adorable. Whether gay or not isn't important. He was warm and tender and adorable," said Angie Dickinson.
Hudson brought AIDS out of the shadows for the general public with the revelation that a major Hollywood star was gay and had the disease. President Ronald Reagan phoned him in Paris where he was seeking special medical treatment. First Lady Nancy phoned French president Francois Mitterand to insure that Rock received the best possible care.
Burt Lancaster delivered what would be a bedridden Rock's last words to a dead-silent Hollywood crowd at an AIDS fundraiser, "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."
Rock Hudson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6116 Hollywood Blvd.
Rock and his '59 Chrysler New Yorker