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Tragic Details About Rock Hudson

If you’re a fan of classic American cinema, you’ve probably watched the films of Rock Hudson.

He was one of the most popular movie stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age and remains an icon of American cinema to this day.

You may remember him from such classic films such as Giant, Pillow Talk, Come September, and Strange Bedfellows among many others. His acting skills were unparalleled, and he remains a great inspiration for many aspiring actors.

But behind the fame and his incredible acting prowess, his personal life wasn’t the easiest. He had to overcome many hurdles to achieve success and stardom. Join Facts Verse to know about the Tragic Details About Rock Hudson.

Let’s look at some of the tragic details about Rock Hudson…

Rock Hudson didn’t have the easiest childhood. He was born Roy Scherer Jr. in Winnetka, Illinois on November 17, 1925. His mother was a homemaker who later worked as a telephone operator and his father was a mechanic.

From the beginning, young Roy didn’t have a stable family life. His father, Roy Sr., would eventually abandon the family. His mother Katherine would later marry a man named Wallace Fitzgerald who was physically abusive. Young Roy was even once physically abused by his stepfather when he stated he wanted to be an actor.

From a very young age, he realized that he’d have to hide who he truly was.

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Despite his stepfather’s constant berating and mocking of his dreams, young Roy couldn’t think of being anything else but an actor. He knew he had the talent and that he could become a huge star one day.

During his high school years, he worked as an usher in a movie theater and developed an even greater passion for cinema. He auditioned for many of his school’s plays yet never landed a role because he had difficulty remembering his lines!

Roy served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon returning from his duties, he decided it was now time to pursue his acting career. The fact that he had difficulty remembering lines wasn’t going to hold him back.

He moved to Los Angeles and found a job as a truck driver to pay his bills. During his free time, he would try to meet with agents and casting directors to try to land whatever film roles he could.

He faced rejection after rejection as did thousands of other men who came to Los Angeles to fulfill their dreams. Then, in 1947, Roy came across an agent named Henry Wilson who helped young and handsome men land roles in Hollywood films.

Roy was 6 foot 4 inches and had a sex appeal that was made for the big screen! It was Henry Wilson who told Roy that he needed a screen name. He combined the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River to transform Roy into Rock Hudson!


Rock Hudson worked hard to prepare his personality for the screen. He had voice coaches help him deepen his voice and he exercised to develop the “beefcake” look that was in fashion at the time. Before he knew it, he was landing roles in films. His earliest work including bit parts in films such as I Was A Shoplifter, Winchester 73, The Desert Hawk, and Tomahawk.

It wouldn’t be long till he was playing bigger roles in bigger films such as Back to God’s Country, Magnificent Obsession, and Giant.

In fact, it was Magnificent Obsession that helped launch Rock Hudson to stardom. Audiences became enamored with his acting chops and his on-screen presence. But it’s not just his talent and his looks that were talked about.

From a very early stage, Rock Hudson’s sexuality was under scrutiny. In fact, there were even rumors that he might have had a relationship with his agent Henry Wilson. During this era, homosexual relations still criminalized throughout most of the country. Yet, Henry Wilson didn’t do much to hide his own sexuality.

The agent was frequently spotted at gay bars and there were rumors that the actors he represented had relations with him.

Rock Hudson did reveal his homosexuality to his closest friends but kept it a secret from the general public. Whenever journalists would ask him about his relationships he would often try to avoid, divert, or make jokes in response.

But as he approached his thirties, the scrutiny became much worse. Audience members and journalists alike couldn’t fathom how a handsome star could still be single in his thirties. The speculation about his sexuality continued and Rock Hudson feared he wouldn’t be able to hide it.


In fact, he attempted to dispel any rumors that he was gay. He had arranged dates with many starlets. He felt that if the press photographed him with enough beautiful actresses that the rumors would die down.

Yet, these dates with starlets didn’t seem to do much. There’s a tabloid called Confidential that wished to “out” Rock Hudson. Henry Wilson was afraid that this “outing” would destroy Rock Hudson’s career. By this point, Rock Hudson was easily Henry Wilson’s most popular star.

Henry Wilson opted to give information on some other stars in exchange for Confidential deciding to not run a story about Rock Hudson’s sexuality!

In 1955, Rock Hudson appeared in the film Giant which became his best-known film. He was also nominated for an Oscar for the film. It was after the release of Giant that he married Phyllis Gates – who was Henry Wilson’s secretary.

Many people were shocked by the marriage, and it seemed that the rumors about his sexuality would die down.


The marriage, however, wouldn’t last and they divorced after 3 years of marriage. In fact, there were rumors that the marriage only happened to dispel the homosexuality rumors. It was also believed that the marriage was “arranged” by Henry Wilson.

Shortly after the marriage ended, Rock Hudson would also end his working relationship with Henry Wilson.

Toward the end of the 1960s, Rock Hudson was no longer landing roles as a leading man. He was now in his forties and had to find new roles to remain relevant. He began focusing his attention on television and only doing film work on occasion.

One of his most notable roles at this time was as Stewart McMillan in the 1970s TV series McMillan and Wife. During this decade, many young Americans began to move away from their conservative upbringing and embraced a more “free-spirited” approach to life. It was during this time when people began to be more open about their sexuality. And it was also the start of the gay-rights movement.

It was during this time that movements for acceptance for gays and lesbians became prominent. Nevertheless, Rock Hudson still tried to conceal his sexuality from the public.

There were close friends of Rock Hudson’s who tried to convince the star to come out of the closet. Yet he would dismiss their suggestions, perhaps out of fear that it would end his career. No matter how open-minded society seemed to become, there was still a lingering fear that he wouldn’t be able to continue working if he came out.


While Rock Hudson was not a huge star as in his youth, he still was a working actor. He received regular work in television and his career was going well.

In the 1980s, however, he began to experience several health problems. He had to undergo heart surgery that came about from years of smoking and drinking. In 1984, he attended a state dinner at the White House. He had been personally invited by Ronald Reagan whom he knew from the President’s acting days!

It was at this state dinner that many guests began noticing Rock Hudson’s poor health. A few weeks following this state dinner, Rock Hudson learned that he was HIV positive…


This at the height of the AIDS pandemic, and it was believed, at the time, that only homosexuals could contract the illness. As a result, there was a heightened sense of prejudice toward homosexuals.

This wasn’t the time for Rock Hudson to come out at all! Anyone who had the disease would be subject to scrutiny, scorn, and even abandonment by their loved ones.

As with his homosexuality, Rock Hudson decided to keep his illness a secret from the public. He only told a few close friends. He continued to work but as the years progressed, the illness was taking its toll on his well-being.

Rock traveled to France to seek treatment for his illness. Upon arriving in France, he collapsed and admitted to hospital. His hospitalization became a major news story around the world and his publicist stated that the star was suffering from cancer.

However, Rock Hudson decided that he couldn’t keep hiding the truth anymore. He revealed that he was suffering from AIDS. And he didn’t state that he was gay, but he knew that everyone would draw that conclusion.

He feared that he’d receive a lot of disdain for his admission. But alas, it was after his admission that we all realized what a beloved star he was. He received thousands of letters from fans around the world.

His admission also made people around the world talk about the seriousness of AIDS. To this day, Rock Hudson’s admission of his illness is believed to have sparked the discussion of the illness.

Randy Shilts, who authored the book And The Band Played On, stated that “There was AIDS before Rock Hudson and AIDS after.” 

Rock Hudson died on October 2nd, 1985, at the age of 59. Though his life was short and often troubled, he’ll always be remembered as one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. His life is an inspiration to anyone. His life teaches us to continue to strive no matter what challenges stand in your way.

Are you a fan of Rock Hudson?

Do you think that if he lived in today’s era his personal life wouldn’t be held up to intense scrutiny? Or are audiences always obsessed and judgmental about a star behind the scenes?

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

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