Rock Hudson was one of the 20th century’s most sought-after film stars — and with good reason. Standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, Hudson towered on set and delivered a captivating magnetic presence. Women wanted him. Men wanted to be him. And many other men fantasized about what we’d eventually all come to know: Rock Hudson was gay.
Hudson is now the subject of a new documentary, Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed (dir: Stephen Kijak), which recently premiered at the Tribeca Festival and is available to stream on Max beginning June 28. Kijak watched thousands of hours of Hudson’s filmography, interviewed past lovers like Lee Garlington, and dove into meticulously researched biographies, including All That Heaven Allows by Marc Griffith (named after the 1955 film co-starring Jane Wyman) and The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson, author Robert Hofler’s searing portrayal of Hudson’s longtime agent.
While Kijak exposes a contemplative double life that Hudson kept closely guarded to maintain his career, the documentarian also explores the actor’s big heart through his endearing relationships with friends, colleagues, and lovers.
On July 25, 1985 — during the height of the AIDS crisis — Hudson made history by becoming the first major celebrity to disclose his HIV status. After keeping his personal life in the shadows for decades, Hudson’s last act would be one of subtle activism (he never publically admitted to being gay).
Queerty looks back on Hudson’s career through archival photos that offer a window into the star’s enduring impact.