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Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson - portrait.jpg
Hudson in 1952
Roy Harold Scherer Jr.

(1925-11-17)November 17, 1925
Died October 2, 1985(1985-10-02) (aged 59)
Monuments Cenotaph at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Cathedral City, California
Other names Roy Harold Fitzgerald (adoption surname from stepfather)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1948–1985
Height 6 ft 5 in (196 cm)
Phyllis Gates
(m. 1955; div. 1958)

Rock Hudson (born Roy Harold Scherer Jr.; November 17, 1925 – October 2, 1985) was an American actor. One of the most popular movie stars of his time, he had a screen career spanning more than three decades. A prominent heartthrob in the Golden Age of Hollywood, he achieved stardom with his role in Magnificent Obsession (1954), followed by All That Heaven Allows (1955), and Giant (1956), for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hudson also found continued success with a string of romantic comedies co-starring Doris Day: Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961), and Send Me No Flowers (1964). During the late 1960s, his films included Seconds (1966), Tobruk (1967), and Ice Station Zebra (1968). Unhappy with the film scripts he was offered, Hudson turned to television and was a hit, starring in the popular mystery series McMillan & Wife (1971–1977). His last role was as a guest star on the fifth season (1984–1985) of the primetime ABC soap opera Dynasty.

Early life

Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer Jr. on November 17, 1925, in Winnetka, Illinois, the only child of Katherine (née Wood), a homemaker and later telephone operator, and Roy Harold Scherer Sr., an auto mechanic. His father was of German and Swiss descent, while his mother had English and Irish ancestry. He was raised as a Roman Catholic. During the Great Depression, Hudson's father lost his job and abandoned the family. Hudson's parents divorced when he was four years old; a few years later, in 1932, his mother married Wallace Fitzgerald, a former Marine Corps officer whom young Roy despised. Fitzgerald adopted his stepson without his consent, and his legal name then became Roy Harold Fitzgerald. The marriage eventually ended in a bitter divorce and produced no children.

Hudson attended New Trier High School in Winnetka. At some point during his teenage years, he worked as an usher in a movie theater and developed an interest in acting. He tried out for a number of school plays, but failed to win any roles because he could not remember his lines, a problem that continued to occur through his early acting career.

He graduated from high school in 1943, and the following year enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. After training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, he departed San Francisco aboard the troop transport SS Lew Wallace with orders to report to Aviation Repair and Overhaul Unit 2, then located on Samar, Philippines, as an aircraft mechanic. In 1946, he returned to San Francisco aboard an aircraft carrier, and was discharged the same year.

Hudson then moved to Los Angeles to live with his biological father (who had remarried) and to pursue an acting career. Initially he worked at odd jobs, including as a truck driver. He applied to the University of Southern California's dramatics program, but was rejected due to poor grades. After he sent talent scout Henry Willson a picture of himself in 1947, Willson took him on as a client and changed the young actor's name to Rock Hudson; later in life, Hudson admitted that he hated the name. The name was coined by combining the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River. Hudson later named his independent film production company Gibraltar Productions. Politically, Hudson was a conservative Republican; he campaigned and voted for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.


Hudson made his acting debut with a small part in the Warner Bros. film Fighter Squadron (1948); according to a 21st-century source, it took 38 takes for Hudson to successfully deliver his only line in the film.


Hudson was signed to a long-term contract by Universal-International. There he received coaching in acting, singing, dancing, fencing, and horseback riding, and began to be featured in film magazines where, being photogenic, he was promoted.

His first film at Universal was Undertow (1949), which gave him his first screen credit. He had small parts in Peggy (1950), Winchester '73 (1950) as an American Indian, The Desert Hawk (1950) (as an Arab), Tomahawk (1951), and Air Cadet (1951).

Hudson was billed third in The Fat Man (1951), but back down the cast list for Bright Victory (1951). He had good parts as a boxer in Iron Man (1951) and as a gambler in Bend of the River (1952). He supported the Nelson family in Here Come the Nelsons (1951).

Rock Hudson, January 1953 (cropped)
Hudson in January 1953

Leading man

Hudson was promoted to leading man for Scarlet Angel (1952), opposite Yvonne De Carlo, who had been in Desert Hawk and Tomahawk. He co-starred with Piper Laurie in Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952), the first of his films directed by Douglas Sirk.

In Horizons West (1952) Hudson supported Robert Ryan, but he was star again for The Lawless Breed (1953) and Seminole (1953). In 1953, he appeared in a Camel commercial that showed him on the set of Seminole.

He and De Carlo were borrowed by RKO for Sea Devils (1953), an adventure set during the Napoleonic Wars. Back at Universal he played Harun al-Rashid in The Golden Blade (1953). There was Gun Fury (1953) and Back to God's Country (1953). Hudson had the title role in Taza, Son of Cochise (1954), directed by Sirk and produced by Ross Hunter.

Magnificent Obsession and stardom

Taylor - Hudson - Giant
Hudson, pictured with Elizabeth Taylor in Giant (1956), the film that led to his only Academy Award nomination

Hudson was by now firmly established as a leading man in adventure films. What turned him into a star was the romantic drama Magnificent Obsession (1954), co-starring Jane Wyman, produced by Hunter and directed by Sirk. The film received positive reviews, with Modern Screen Magazine citing Hudson as the most popular actor of the year. It made over $5 million at the box office.

Hudson returned to adventure films with Bengal Brigade (1954), set during the Indian Mutiny, and Captain Lightfoot (1955), produced by Hunter and directed by Sirk. In 1954, exhibitors voted Hudson the 17th most popular star in the country.

Hunter used him in the melodramas One Desire (1955) and All That Heaven Allows (1955), which reunited him with Sirk and Wyman. He next acted in Never Say Goodbye (1956).

Giant (1956)

Hudson's popularity soared with George Stevens' film Giant (1956). Hudson and his co-star James Dean were nominated for Oscars in the Best Actor category. Another hit was Written on the Wind (1957), directed by Sirk and produced by Albert Zugsmith. Sirk also directed Hudson in Battle Hymn (1957), produced by Hudson, playing Dean Hess. These films propelled Hudson to be voted the most popular actor in American cinemas in 1957. He stayed in the "top ten" until 1964.

Hudson was borrowed by MGM to appear in Richard Brooks' Something of Value (1957), a box-office disappointment. So too was his next film, a remake of A Farewell to Arms (1957). To make A Farewell to Arms, he reportedly turned down Marlon Brando's role in Sayonara, William Holden's role in The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Charlton Heston's role in Ben-Hur. A Farewell to Arms received negative reviews, failed at the box office and became the last production by David O. Selznick. Hudson was reunited with the producer, director and two stars of Written on the Wind in The Tarnished Angels (1958), at Universal. He then made Twilight for the Gods (1958) and This Earth Is Mine (1959).

Romantic comedy star

Ross Hunter teamed Hudson with Doris Day in the romantic comedy Pillow Talk (1959), which was a massive hit. Hudson was voted the most popular star in the country for 1959 and was the second most popular for the next three years.

Less popular was The Last Sunset (1961), co-starring Kirk Douglas. Hudson then made two hugely popular comedies: Come September (1961) with Gina Lollobrigida, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, directed by Robert Mulligan; and Lover Come Back (1961) with Day.

He made two dramas: The Spiral Road (1962), directed by Mulligan, and A Gathering of Eagles (1963), directed by Delbert Mann. Hudson still was voted the third most popular star in 1963. Hudson went back to comedy for Man's Favorite Sport? (1964), directed by Howard Hawks and the popular Send Me No Flowers (1964), his third and final film with Day. Along with Cary Grant, Hudson was regarded as one of the best-dressed male stars in Hollywood and received Top 10 Stars of the Year a record-setting eight times from 1957 to 1964.

Decline as a star

Strange Bedfellows (1965), with Gina Lollobrigida, was a box-office disappointment. So too was A Very Special Favor (1965), despite having the same writer and director as Pillow Talk.

Hudson next appeared in Blindfold (1966). Then, working outside his usual range, he starred in the science-fiction thriller Seconds (1966), directed by John Frankenheimer and co-produced through his own film production company Gibraltar Productions. The film may have been Hudson's best performance.

He also tried his hand in the action genre with Tobruk (1967), directed by Arthur Hiller. After the comedy A Fine Pair (1968) with Claudia Cardinale, he starred in the action thriller Ice Station Zebra (1968) at MGM, a role which remained his personal favorite. The film was a hit but struggled to recoup its large cost.

Hudson dabbled in westerns, appearing opposite John Wayne in The Undefeated (1969). Playing a World War I flier, he co-starred opposite Julie Andrews in the Blake Edwards musical Darling Lili (1970), notorious for its huge cost.


During the 1970s and 1980s, he starred in a number of TV movies and series. His most successful television series was McMillan & Wife opposite Susan Saint James, which ran from 1971 to 1977. Hudson played police commissioner Stewart "Mac" McMillan, with Saint James as his wife Sally, and their on-screen chemistry helped make the show a hit.

During the series, Rock Hudson appeared in Showdown (1973), a western with Dean Martin, and Embryo (1976), a science-fiction film. Hudson took a risk and surprised many by making a successful foray into live theater late in his career, and the best received of his efforts was I Do! I Do! in 1974.

Rock Hudson en 'Embryo'
Hudson in the lead role of Embryo (1976), a horror/sci-fi film

After McMillan ended, Hudson made the disaster movie Avalanche (1978) and the miniseries Wheels (1978) and The Martian Chronicles (1980). He was one of several stars in The Mirror Crack'd (reuniting him with Giant co-star Elizabeth Taylor) (1980) and co-starred in The Beatrice Arthur Special (1980).

Later years

In the early 1980s Hudson began having health problems which resulted in a heart attack in November 1981. Emergency quintuple heart bypass surgery sidelined Hudson and his new TV show The Devlin Connection for a year, and the show was canceled in December 1982 soon after it aired. His health issues forced him to turn down the role of Col. Sam Trautman in First Blood.

Hudson recovered from the heart surgery but continued to smoke. He nevertheless continued to work with appearances in several TV movies such as World War III (1982). He was in ill health while filming the action-drama film The Ambassador in Israel during the winter months from late 1983 to early 1984. He reportedly did not get along with his co-star Robert Mitchum, who often clashed off-camera with Hudson and other cast and crew members.

From December 1984 to April 1985, Hudson appeared in a recurring role on the prime time soap opera Dynasty as Daniel Reece, a wealthy horse breeder and a potential love interest for Krystle Carrington (played by Linda Evans), as well as the biological father of the character Sammy Jo Carrington (Heather Locklear). While Hudson had long been known to have difficulty memorizing lines, which resulted in his use of cue cards, his speech began to visibly deteriorate on Dynasty. He was slated to appear for the duration of the show's second half of its fifth season; however, because of his progressing ill health, his character was abruptly written out of the show and died off-screen.

Personal life

While his career developed, Hudson and his agent Henry Willson kept the actor's personal life out of the headlines.

In 1955 Hudson married Willson's secretary Phyllis Gates. Gates later wrote that she dated Hudson for several months, lived with him for two months before his surprise marriage proposal, and married Hudson out of love. Press coverage of the wedding quoted Hudson as saying: "When I count my blessings, my marriage tops the list." Gates filed for divorce after three years in April 1958. Hudson did not contest the divorce and Gates received alimony of $250 per week for 10 years. Gates never remarried.

Although he was raised Roman Catholic, Hudson later identified as an atheist. A week before Hudson died, his publicist Tom Clark asked a priest to visit. Hudson made a confession, received communion, and was administered last rites. Hudson also was visited by Shirley and Pat Boone.

Illness and death

President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan with Rock Hudson
Hudson (left) with President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan at a May 1984 White House state dinner

Unknown to the public, Hudson was diagnosed with a severe chronic desease on June 5, 1984. Over the next several months, Hudson kept his illness a secret and continued to work while, at the same time, traveling to France and other countries seeking a cure, or at least treatment to slow the progression of the disease.

On July 16, 1985, Hudson joined his old friend Doris Day for a Hollywood press conference announcing the launch of her new TV cable show Doris Day's Best Friends in which Hudson was videotaped visiting Day's ranch in Carmel, California, a few days earlier. He appeared gaunt and during the segment Hudson did very little speaking, with most of it consisting of Day and Hudson walking around as Day's recording of "My Buddy" played in the background, with Hudson noting he had quickly tired out. His appearance was enough of a shock that the reunion was broadcast repeatedly over national news shows that night and for days to come. Media outlets speculated on Hudson's health. Day later acknowledged: "He was very sick. But I just brushed that off and I came out and put my arms around him and said 'Am I glad to see you.'"

Two days later, Hudson traveled to Paris, France, for another round of treatment. After Hudson collapsed in his room at the Ritz Hotel in Paris on July 21, his publicist Dale Olson released a statement claiming that Hudson had inoperable liver cancer.

Hudson flew back to Los Angeles on July 30. He was so weak that he was removed by stretcher from the Air France Boeing 747 he had chartered, on which he and his medical attendants were the only passengers. He was flown by helicopter to UCLA Medical Center, where he spent nearly a month undergoing further treatment. He was released from the hospital in late August 1985 and returned to his home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles for private hospice care.

At around 9:00 a.m. on October 2, 1985, Hudson died in his sleep at his home in Beverly Hills at the age of 59, less than seven weeks before what would have been his 60th birthday. Hudson requested that no funeral be held. His body was cremated hours after his death and a cenotaph later was established at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cathedral City, California. His ashes were scattered in the channel between Wilmington, Los Angeles and Santa Catalina Island.


Los Angeles (California, USA), Hollywood Boulevard, Rock Hudson -- 2012 -- 4974
Hudson's star at on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6116 Hollywood Blvd.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Hudson was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (located at 6116 Hollywood Blvd). Following his death, Elizabeth Taylor, his co-star in the film Giant, purchased a bronze plaque for Hudson on the West Hollywood Memorial Walk. In 2002, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.



Year Title Role Notes
1948 Fighter Squadron Pilot Uncredited
1949 Undertow Detective Credited as Roc Hudson
1950 One Way Street Truck driver Uncredited
1950 Shakedown Valet Uncredited (59 minutes into the movie)
1950 Peggy Johnny "Scat" Mitchell
1950 Winchester '73 Young Bull
1950 The Desert Hawk Captain Ras
1951 Tomahawk Burt Hanna
1951 Air Cadet Upper classman
1951 The Fat Man Roy Clark
1951 Bright Victory Dudek
1951 Iron Man Tommy "Speed" O'Keefe (Kosco)
1952 Bend of the River Trey Wilson
1952 Here Come the Nelsons Charles E. "Charlie" Jones
1952 Scarlet Angel Frank Truscott (Panama)
1952 Has Anybody Seen My Gal? Dan Stebbins
1952 Horizons West Neil Hammond
1953 The Lawless Breed John Wesley Hardin
1953 Seminole Lance Caldwell
1953 Sea Devils Gilliatt
1953 The Golden Blade Harun
1953 Gun Fury Ben Warren
1953 Back to God's Country Peter Keith
1954 Taza, Son of Cochise Taza
1954 Magnificent Obsession Bob Merrick
1954 Bengal Brigade Capt. Jeffrey Claybourne
1955 Captain Lightfoot Michael Martin
1955 One Desire Clint Saunders
1955 All That Heaven Allows Ron Kirby
1956 Never Say Goodbye Dr. Michael Parker
1956 Giant Jordan "Bick" Benedict Jr. Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
1956 Written on the Wind Mitch Wayne
1957 Battle Hymn Col. Dean Hess
1957 Something of Value Peter
1957 The Tarnished Angels Burke Devlin
1957 A Farewell to Arms Lt. Frederick Henry
1958 Twilight for the Gods Captain David Bell
1959 This Earth Is Mine John Rambeau
1959 Pillow Talk Brad Allen
1961 The Last Sunset Dana Stribling
1961 Come September Robert L. Talbot
1961 Lover Come Back Jerry Webster
1962 The Spiral Road Dr. Anton Drager
1963 Marilyn Narrator Documentary
1963 A Gathering of Eagles Col. Jim Caldwell
1964 Man's Favorite Sport? Roger Willoughby
1964 Send Me No Flowers George
1965 Strange Bedfellows Carter Harrison
1965 A Very Special Favor Paul Chadwick
1966 Blindfold Dr. Bartholomew Snow
1966 Seconds Antiochus "Tony" Wilson
1967 Tobruk Maj. Donald Craig
1968 A Fine Pair Capt. Mike Harmon
1968 Ice Station Zebra Cdr. James Ferraday
1969 The Undefeated Col. James Langdon
1970 Darling Lili Major William Larrabee
1970 Hornets' Nest Captain Turner
1971 Pretty Maids All in a Row Michael "Tiger" McDrew
1973 Showdown Chuck Jarvis
1976 Embryo Dr. Paul Holliston
1978 Avalanche David Shelby
1980 The Mirror Crack'd Jason Rudd
1980 Superstunt II TV movie
1981 The Star Maker Danny Youngblood TV movie
1982 World War III President Thomas McKenna TV miniseries
1984 The Ambassador Frank Stevenson
1984 The Vegas Strip War Neil Chaine TV movie


Year Title Role Notes
1954–1955 The Colgate Comedy Hour Himself 2 episodes
1955 I Love Lucy Himself Episode: "In Palm Springs"
1962 The Jack Benny Program Himself Episode: "Rock Hudson Show"
1968–1969 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Himself 3 episodes
1970 The Jim Nabors Hour Himself 1 episode
1971–1977 McMillan & Wife Police Commissioner Stewart "Mac" McMillan 40 episodes
1975–1977 The Carol Burnett Show Himself 3 episodes
1978 Wheels Adam Trenton Miniseries
1980 The Martian Chronicles Col. John Wilder Miniseries
1980 The Beatrice Arthur Special Himself TV special
1982 The Devlin Connection Brian Devlin 13 episodes
1984–1985 Dynasty Daniel Reece 9 episodes; Final role


Year Award Category Work
1956 Photoplay Awards Most Popular Male Star Himself
1958 Laurel Awards Top Male Star Himself
1959 Bambi Awards Best Actor – International This Earth Is Mine
1959 Golden Globe Award World Film Favorite – Male Himself
1959 Laurel Awards Top Male Star
1959 Photoplay Awards Most Popular Male Star
1960 Bambi Awards Best Actor – International Pillow Talk
1960 Golden Globe Award World Film Favorite – Male Himself
1960 Laurel Awards Top Male Star
1961 Bambi Awards Best Actor – International Come September
1961 Golden Globe Award World Film Favorite – Male Himself
1962 Bambi Awards Best Actor – International The Spiral Road
1963 Golden Globe Award World Film Favorite – Male Himself
1963 Laurel Awards Top Male Star
1964 Bambi Awards Best Actor – International Man's Favorite Sport?
1967 Seconds
1976 TP de Oro Best Foreign Actor (Mejor Actor Extranjero) McMillan & Wife

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Rock Hudson para niños

  • Rock Hudson's Home Movies
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