THE MAN WHO INVENTED ROCK HUDSON by Robert Hofler

THE MAN WHO INVENTED ROCK HUDSON

The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bedroom journalism about a Hollywood talent agent who—surprise!—shaped actors’ careers in return for sex.

Truck driver Roy Fitzgerald had bad teeth and used bad grammar. But the tall hunk also had a great face and great pecs. Agent Henry Willson played a hunch that someone with Fitzgerald’s all-American image would excite audiences who, after World War II, liked their men heroic and brawny. Willson had the actor’s teeth fixed and gave him an iconic name, Rock Hudson. A block of oak as an actor, Hudson nevertheless became a top box-office star, cueing Willson to turn Arthur Gelien into Tab Hunter, Robert Moseley into Guy Madison, Francis Durgin into Rory Calhoun, etc., etc. Besides paying Willson ten percent of their earnings, the actors were expected to sleep with Willson, who was gay and a troll in the looks department. Most actors, including some who were straight, gave in. The success of his clients kept actors showing up at Willson’s office or by his pool, reportedly the scene of orgies. More than a lecher, Willson could be generous with his boys (he supported Hudson during the actor’s first year in Hollywood) and gave them canny career advice. The agent could also be treacherous. When Confidential magazine threatened to expose Hudson as gay, Willson bartered the rag’s silence about Hudson for tales about Calhoun’s prison record and Hunter’s arrest at a gay party (see Tab Hunter Confidential, p. 776). To butch up Hudson’s image, Willson arranged a marriage between his secretary and the future star of Pillow Talk. And to keep blackmailers off Hudson’s trail, Willson let loose the hounds—off-duty cops and mafia men.

No fool for Hollywood, Variety reporter Hofler gets off a lot of good lines as he tells this familiar tale of Hollywood gays in the ’50s.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-7867-1607-X
Page count: 480pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2005




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