Film Reviews

"Magnificent Obsession" in 1954, "Giant" in 1956, and the film that, with a shift from present to past tense, subtitles this biodoc, "All That Heaven Allows" in 1955. For "Giant," Rock Hudson was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor. A documentary starring Rock Hudson must cite these films, the ones that made him a star. 

These films in the Golden Age of Hollywood were followed in the Sixties by "Lover Come Back," "Send Me No Flowers," and "Ice Station Zebra." The Seventies saw Hudson on television, six years of "McMillan & Wife" and one as a guest on "Dynasty."

Throughout, he was a star, a handsome hunk hailing from Winnetka, Ill. He was also a homosexual in a Hollywood closet. Seemingly, everyone in that village knew he was gay; however, the studios' public relations departments ginned an image of the heterosexual man, "a male Adonis," "the Tom Cruise of his day." How did Hudson manage both images?

Director Stephen Kijak attempts to answer that in his intimate documentary. It follows on the heels of -- and could be said to be an homage to -- a so-called "video essay" entitled "Rock Hudson's Home Movies," directed by Mark Rappaport in 1992. However, Kijak's film is more straightforward biography. Kijak includes vintage filmed interviews with Hudson's friends, like Elizabeth Taylor. Kijak includes Hudson's biographers, Robert Hofler and Mark Griffin, and gossip columnists like Rona Barrett. Kijak shares comments by activists like Randy Shilts and Armistead Maupin. Hudson's lovers speak of him with joy, not mincing words and smiling coyly as they remember Hudson's prowess on screen and off.

What Kijak does -- almost a party trick here -- is interslice dialogue from Hudson's films, a technique openly borrowed from Rappaport. It works. Lines read one way in 1954 but read as a double entendre today, lines, especially in the "Pillow Talk" films with Doris Day, that tease innuendos with the word "gay."

Kijak addresses idiotic rumors about Hudson's "marriage" to Jim Nabors. Admirably, he stresses that Hudson "put his face on AIDS" and strengthened a public response to the epidemic of acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome, the disease from which Hudson died in 1985. 

"Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed" is worthy of the star and of his fans, gay and straight.

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