Rock Hudson

  1. Edmund Purdom, The Egyptian, 1953. 
    Once Brando split to his New York shrink, head Fox Darryl Zanuck scurried around searching for a new Sinuhe, the court physician – Dirk Bogarde, John Cassevetes, Montgomery Clift,  Richard Conte, John Derek, John Lund, Guy Madison, Hugh O’Brian, Michael Pate.  Or the new guy at Universal, an ex-mailmen, vacuum cleaner  salesman and truck driver until seen by  the elegant  agent, Henry Wilson.. He turned  Roy Fitzgerald into Rock Hudson, among his string of re-named young guys.  “I always gave a green actor a  trick name to help him get noticed.” Exactly  like Larry Parnes’  Swinging London  pop star  stables breeding Vince Eager, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Tommy Steele,  etc. -Francis McCown  and Troy Donahue. “I named Guy Madison from Dolly Madison cakes.  Tab Hunter? I couldn’t think of anything to tab him with. John Smith? I just got tired.  For Roy,  I wanted something strong and big. Rock of Gibraltar…  and  the Hudson River.”   Rock hated it   Bogart and his gang made fun of Wilson’s names and tried to out-do him.  Their best effort was…  Dung Heep.  Meanwhile for BC Egypt, Fox borrowed MGM’s wooden Purdom and sued Brando for $2m, settled when he agreed to make (the much worse) Désirée.   Or Daisy-Rae as Brando  called the one that got away from Napoleon.

  2. John Derek, The Ten Commandments,1954.

  3. Alan Young, Gentleman Marry Brunettes, 1955.  Mary Anita Loos, writer-niece of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes writer Anita Loos, knew Hudson fromNewport. She offered him the film  –  opposite Jane Russell,  Jeanne Crain.  Universal said: No way.  Hudson  and  Wilson  were together for nigh on 20 years from September 1947.  Agent, mentor-protégé, puppeteer,  father-son and undoubtedly lovers.  “At a time when most were in the closest, Henry was not,” said the Universal; drama coach Estelle Harmon. “It’s awful when dirty old men get hold of a young boy who is innocence abroad,” added Dorothy Malone, Rock’s future co-star. Not that Wilson turned him.  Hudson knew he was gay at eight.  Raoul Walsh was the first director to take note of him  for Fighter Squadron, 1948 –  “At the very least, he’ll be good scenery” –  and  signed him to a personal contract, Including  chauffeuring him around town.  “There’s something about him, a humility, a sincerity. He’s going to make it.” He ever made e a movie during his first year at Universal until  Undertow, 1949, when he was billed as Roc Hudson. Universal  was like a little town in those days,” said Mamie Van Doren. “We even had our own post office.” His roles were  cough and spitters –  detective, soldier, boxer, gambler, even an Indian chief (“darker  make-up and a wig doesn’t make you an Indian”) and  needing  eight takes to just open a door for Brian Donley. . Piper Laurie recalled him “sobbing with fear, before a scene.  Didn’t even know he was good-looking!”

  4. Don Murray, Bus Stop, Elvis Presley had been first choice for the dumbcluck cowpoke, Beauregard Decker – aka Bo – taking Marilyn Monroe’s Cherie away from all this bar singing stuff.  Except  “Colonel” Tom Parker didn’t want nobody takin’ the shine off his boy!   Despite (or because of) Marilyn being all Stanislavskjy at the time, Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift weren’t interested. (Clift learned his lesson and made The Misfits with her).  Marilyn only ever wanted Rock Hudson but… He was more into sob schlock opposite Jane Wyman.  Anyway, Universal would not release him. (Yet).   “More  important  to  have  him  for  our own pictures.” said  production  chief Ed  Muhl.   Also considered: three tele-cowpokes: Fess Parker, aka Davy Crockett, John Smith, from Laramie, and the lanky Rowdy Yates on Rawhide, a  certain Clint Eastwood. Murray (the first star I interviewed at  the first of my 26 Cannes festivals in 1961) won an Oscar nomination for his debut  and wed his other co-star, Hope Lange.

  5. Marlon Brando, Sayonara, 1957.  Imagine the absolute idiocy of the propostion.  Stage-screen director Joshua Logan was hoping Brando would support Hudson! Then, Logan stopped sniffing glue – or whatever.  Hudson refused this fim and Ben-Hur to make A Farewell To Arms (and quickly regretted it). Red Buttons supported Brando (in the main role, of course) and collected a support actor Oscar. (Brando and Hudson allegedly had a short affair.  Most Marlon affairs were short).
  6. William Holden, The Bridge on the River Kwai,  1957.    Hudson refused Kwai, Sayonara and Ben-Hur,  while his own choice, A Farewell to Arms, became one of  movie history’s greatest turds – “biggest mistake of my  career.” Worse for its iconic producer David O Selznick; he never made another picture.
  7. John Gavin,  A Time To Love and A Time To Die, 1958.       Douglas Sirk wanted Mr Newman.  The Universal studio  gave him Mr Cardboard.

  8. Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1958.    
    This would have lent an entirely different bent to scenarist Gore Vidal’s view that the unmotivated emnity in the “infantile story” was that  Ben-Hur and Messala had been boyhood lovers. “Ben turned straight as a die while Messala remained in love with Ben.” Universal  rejected  MGM’s $1m  loan offer  for  – their Magnificent Obsession  of  ’54.  “Rock, or anyone else, was never loaned for the sole purpose of making money,” declared the studio’s  production  chief Ed  Muhl.  And certainly not for any script with a dodgy homosexual subtext. (Everyone at Universal knew he was gay. No need to advertise it.) Director William Wyler (of the original’s 1924 crew) then studied Italians Cesare Danova and Vittorio Gassman. Plus Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Van Johnson (no, really!), Burt Lancaster (an atheist with no interest in Christianity commercials,  although he had earlier tried to mount his  own version),  Paul Newman, true Brit Edmund Purdom, who had picked up another epic dropped by Brando, The Egyptian, and Robert Traylor. According to Gore Vidal, Willie Wyler called Heston wooden. Brando, for one, would not disagree.  And yet, Judah Ben-Heston  won his Oscar on April 4 1960. 

  9. Anthony Perkins, Green Mansions,1958.      A stop-go project since 1933 at RKO, with every beauty from Mexican Dolores Del Rio to the Peruvian five-octave singer Yma Sumac, by way of Pier Angel and, finally, Audrey Hepburn, for Rima, the jungle sprite. When the pot was stirred anew by actor-director Mel Ferrer and his wife, Audrey Hepburn, MGM wanted Hudson as the Abel in her thrall.  Perkins almost looked more of a sprite than Audrey did. Indeed some wags suggested it would have been better if Hudson and Perkins had played the leads! 
  10. Montgomery Clift, Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959.       Producer  Sam Spiegel never really wanted to see Clift  again.  “I don’t want to be near him.” Not after the Denny’s Hideaway steak house incident during the River Kwai casting, when  Monty actor  mixed pills and creme de menthe, spoke in  non-sequiturs (“the sky is blue”) and fell, not into his cups, but into Betty Spiegel’s lap.  “He could not move. It was as if he was numb – Sam preferred his River Kwai star, but couldn’t ”Spiegel” (ie  cajole, manipulate or con)  Holden into agreeing.  Nor Hudson.

  11. Glenn Ford, Cimarron,1960.   MGM wanted a titular Hudson for the second film of Edna Ferber’s typicably epic npvel. Universal did not agree. Ferber hated the movie.  “I shan’t go into the anachronisms in dialogue; the selection of a foreign-born actress [Maria Schell] to play an American-born bride; the repetition; the bewildering lack of sequence…. This old grey head turned almost black during those two (or was it three?) hours.”
  12. Yves Montand, Let’s Make Love, 1960.  Among the legions rejecting Marilyn Monroe because she was past it – and she was trouble. never on time.  Plus, the  public would be watching her, not them.  Hudson, Stephen Boyd, Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, William Holden and old-timers Cary Cooper, Cary Grant, James Stewart all fled what was then called (in their favour) The Billionaire.   Marilyn and Montand took the  new title literally.
  13. Gregory Peck, The Guns of Navarone, 1960.  Writer-producer Carl Foreman aimed high for his Allied saboteurs in WWII Greece – starting with Cary Grant and Marlon Brando! Plus three stars from his Oscar-winning Bridge on the River Kwai script: Alec Guinness (too busy), Jack Hawkins (having cancer treatment), William Holden (too pricey)… and Gary Cooper (another cancer victim) from Foreman’s High Noon. Also In the mix for Peck’s Captain Keith Mallory were Richard Burton and Rock Hudson. Peck tried an English accent. He needn’t have bothered. Mallory was a New Zealander. The actual mission the film was based on was Winston Churchill’s worst WWII blunder – so he adored Foreman’s revision and asked him to film his autobiography, My Early Life, which he did as Young Winston  in 1971. 
  14. Dirk Bogarde, The Angel Wore Red, 1961.  Bogarde  jumped at Monty Clift’s cast-off. Paying no heed to refusals by (count em!) Rock, Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Dean Martin, Paul Newman!
  15. Cary Grant, That Touch of Mink, 1961.  Grant often  had fun  with Rock Hudson, latest of a long line of rivals who looked fine enough  in tuxedos but had  had little else to offer. In The Grass Is Greener,  Cary even answered the phone by saying he was Rock Hudson.  But as Rock proved in hiss rom-coms with Doris Day and Tony Randall, when it  came to playing Cary Grant, nobody could match Cary Grant. While Doris and Cary, written as early 20s/30s, were ancient at 38/58.  And it showed. Which could be why Cary hated the movie. Yet, having  knocked Hudson off top spot, to fourth, in Box Office magazine’s stars of 1958, Mink consequently became Grant’s second most successful movie after Operation Petticoat . “Rock was an odd case,” said Randall. “He learned to act after he was a star.”
  16. Gregory Peck, To Kill  A Mockingbird, 1962.     Hudson was ahead of Peck (and James Stewart) in  the queue to be Atticus Finch… now revered as Peck’s greatest hour – earning Peck’s Oscar and his funeral eugoly from co-star Brock Peters.
  17. George Peppard, The Carpetbaggers,1963.  When singer Eddie Fisher had the rights to Harold Robbins’ best-seller, the top roles  – based loosely (?) on Jean Harlow and Howard Hughes  – they were for  his wife, Liz Taylor, and her 1955 Giant co-star, Rock. Hudson.  However, two powerful forces blocked his ambition. 1. Cleopatra. 2. Marc Antony, aka Richard Burton. The project then sadly became  the  first of New York producer Joseph E Levine’s three snitty/snotty movies about Hollywood – followed by Harlow, 1964 (also with Baker),  and The Oscar, 1965. Each one was worse than the precedent.
  18. Sean Connery, Marnie, 1963.     After Marlon Brando and Paul Newman passed, Hudson had a meet with Alfred Hitchcock about playing Mark Rutland.   Then, Cubby Broccoli called Hitch about his new 007  find… and,  although, he didn’t match the  “American aristocrat hero” at all, the role was Sean’s.

  19. Marlon Brando, Bedtime Story, 1963.   Or, King of the Mountain, when the comedy about two con-men was offered to Cary Grant as the suave (what else?) Lawrence Jamison – and Rock Hudson as the small-timer Freddy Benson, learning from the older ace. Given the rumours over the years, imagine the impact of the posters:  Cary Grant & Rock Hudson in Bedtime Story…!    Universal understood and…
  20. David Niven, Bedtime Story, 1963. …decided  that Rock should play the older guy with – hey, why not Warren Beatty, as the whippersnapper.  Even  more incredibly,  they became David Niven and Marlon Brando. (For the 1988 re-hash, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, they became Michael Caine-Steve Martin).

  21. Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady, 1963. 
    To protect the  $5.2m  he paid for the rights, Jack Warner wanted star power – like Audrey Hepburn and Cary instead  of Broadway’s original Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins: Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. Warner had  several other Professors in mind. From the inspired (Grant, Noël Coward, Peter O’Toole, George Sanders) to the plain stupid (Rock Hudson as a grumpy English gentleman?). Plus dowdy Michael Redgrave, who had the style but the box-office appeal of George Zucco.  (Who?)  (Exactly!) Refusing $1.5m, Grant Grant paraphrased his 1961 line about Robert Preston and The Music Man:  “Not only will  I not play it, but if you don’t put Rex in it, I won’t go see it!”

  22. Richard Burton, The Sandpiper,  1964.   We’re at the start of the  “Burtons, gotta be the Burtons” decade…  So any notion of re-uniting From Here To Eternity’s Deborah Kerr-Burt Lancaster, much less the  fresher union of Kim Novak-Rock Hudson were shoved aside. Hey, this was a story of illicit love, so… “Gotta be the Burtons.”  In the third of eleven films together. Despite  their mystifying lack of on-screen chemistry. Reason  Liz looked so hot in the long-shot Big Sur beach scenes was because her body double was the unknown…  Raquel Welch.

  23. Dick Van Dyke, The Art of Love, 1964.   James Garner was always Casey  – well, he was the co-producer. But who should be his roomie in a made-in-Hollywood Paris,  an artist  faking a suicide to increase the value of his work. Paul went through Tony Curtis, John  Gavin, singer Robert Goulet, Rock Hudson, George Maharis, even Oskar Werner,  before being rather well played by Van  Dyke.  Good name for someone  playing a painter!

  24. Lex Barker, Woman Times Seven, Italy-France, US, 1966.  Rock was in, then  out… Wise man. Shirley MacLaine was different women in seven vignettes created by director Vittorio De Sica and his usual neorealist scenarist, Cesare Zavatinni. Nothing neo or realist here. Despite Shirl’s efforts with such guys ,as Alan Arkin, Rossano Brazzi, Michael Caine, Vittorio Gassman, Peter Sellers, Philippe Noiret, Peter Sellers,…even  a Brando cameo, sans credit.  Something was lost in translation.  Like, well, fun. Rock left the Super Simonesegment to the 50s’ Tarzan.
  25. Richard  Harris,  Hawaii,  1966.     Gentleman director Fred  Zinnemann  started the project with Rock opposite Audrey Hepburn. Harris Harris – who producer Walter Mirisch had been trying to obtain  for a film since The Great Escape, 1963 –  won Julie Andrews, helmer George Roy Hill and 228 loops – “you can change your whole performance in looping.” Just not improve it.

  26. Richard Harris, Camelot, 1966.  
    And another musical for the non-singer…  For his last hurrah after 45 years running Warner Bros, head bro Jack L Warner – having learned his lesson the hard way by ruining My Fair Lady – wanted the original Broadway stars to reprise their 1960 roles of King Arthur and Guenevere. Burton was not keen (or not for the money being offered).  Nor was Julie Andrews, certainly not after the way Jack Warner dumped her from My Fair Lady (even though that led to her Mary Poppins Oscar).  “OK, we’ll take Liz, as well,” said Warner.  And why not their mate, Peter O’Toole, as Lancelot.  However, Elizabeth Taylor was not going where Burton was not going…  He regretted spurning the crown and headed a 1980 stage tour, before quitting due to health issues. His replacement on stage, as on screen, was Richard Harris.  Other royal contenders had been, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson, Peter O’Toole, Gregory Peck and Robert Shaw. Harris first heard about the film when making Hawaii with Julie Andrews (the very reason she refused the musical, she did not get on with Harris). The Irishman pushed hard for the role, Including this do-the-math note to Warner: “Height of Vanessa Redgrave: 5 feet 11 inches. Richard Burton: 5 feet 10 inches. Richard Harris: 6 feet 2 inches”!   He even paid for his own screen test, directed by Nicolas Roeg! Harris later  paid $1m for the Camelot rights for his stage your, making more millions  than even  from his Harry Potter years.

  27. Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  28. Charles Bronson, C’era una volta il West (UK/US: Once Upon A Time in the West), Italy-USA, 1968.    The Paramount suits reported: “Rock wants to be Harmonica.”   No, thundered  maestro Segio Leopne. “It’s Bronson or no one. A force of marble!”
  29. Steve McQueen, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968.     Canadian director Norman Jewison’s first reserve if Sean Connery proved unavailable was sideswiped by McQueen agreeing to wear a suit for once.  A far more  triumphant  change of McQueen image than  his foolish ego trip, An Enemy of the People, 1978.
  30. Tony Curtis, The Persuaders, TV, 1971-1972.    With the Bond producers showing interest, Roger Moore wasn’t keen on another TV series after The Saint, until the size of producer Lew Grade’s cheque grew bigger than his cigas. Grade offered a choice of three US co-stars. Moore said Glenn Ford was a selfish actor, Hudson was almost a Moore clone, “both six-foot-something, even-featured leading men”  – but  Tony Curtis “would be  brilliiant.”  Tony’s version was that Grade enticed Moore aboard by saying: “We’ll get Tony for the other rôle.“ Either way the result was the same. Only 20 of the 24 shows were aired in the US. 
  31. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.    The idea was fair – a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Eastwood, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck.. Pus three of co-star Katharine Hepburn’s previous partners – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before, Kate suggested… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Peter O’Toole, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!)… McQueen turned down her Grace Quigley in 1983.   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree.”
  32. Leonard Harris, Taxi Driver, 1976.     
  33. John Wheeler, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1977.   If Doris Day had accepted Mrs Fields, her Mister would have been Hudson, just like the old days at Universal. With The Bee Gees substituting The Beatles, the musical was over before it began. The mindless morass of most Pepper and Abbey Road songs formed, said Newsweek’s David Ansen, “a dangerous resemblance to wallpaper.”

 Birth year: 1925Death year: 1985Other name: Casting Calls:  33