Throughout Hollywood history few stars have become bigger than Rock Hudson. He's a silver screen legend, despite only having a handful of roles. His straight-shooting but emotionally available characters made women across the country swoon. His tall frame and broad shoulders made him a shoo-in for almost any role he wanted, but as much as we know his iconic look there's a lot you probably don't know about Rock Hudson.
Rock Hudson wasn't born Rock Hudson, that part you probably put together yourself. His real name doesn't quite roll off the tongue the same way. Meet Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. That was only his name at birth. His father left the family and his mother remarried to a man named Wallace Fitzgerald. Hudson changed his legal name to Fitzgerald before moving to Hollywood and finally assuming the name we all know today.
Bonus fact: his name was created by talent scout Harvey Willson and is a combination of the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River.
Like a lot of stars from the era Rock Hudson was also a World War 2 veteran. He was a mechanic for the US Navy during the war, but never saw action overseas.
Rock Hudson is one of the biggest stars to have served during the war, but he's far from the only one. Paul Newman, Charlton Heston, Charles Bronson and Jimmy Stewart, among others, all served as well. Stewart was awarded several medals and went on over 20 combat missions before the war was finally over.
Famous High School
Okay maybe the high school isn't famous, but there must be something in the water there. New Trier Township High School East hardly sounds like a star-maker, but it's tough to argue with the resume. Ann-Margret, Charlton Heston, Bruce Dern, Virginia Madsen and, of course, Rock Hudson all attended the small school near Winnetka, Illinois.
Hudson was always in love with acting and movies in particular. He worked as an usher at the local theater and tried out for school plays. You might think an Oscar-nominated film star probably got any role he wanted in high school, you'd be wrong. He failed to win any roles in school because he couldn't remember any of his lines.
His acting struggles would continue, but as his star grew he put more and more work into becoming a legitimate actor.
The dashing smile and smooth, deep voice might seem like God's gift, but Hudson actually had a little help from medical science. He underwent surgery on his vocal cords in order to deepen his voice, even though the procedure kept him from one of his other passions: singing.
He also had his teeth-capped, which is now very popular both inside and outside of Hollywood.
Not The Best Casting Decisions
He was a star on both the big screen and on Television, but he's only had a handful of truly iconic roles. Perhaps that's because Hudson made some really bad decisions when it came to picking movies.
He wanted to be in the adaptation of Ernst Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms and turned down the lead role in Sayonara (the role went to Marlon Brando who was nominated for an Oscar), Ben-Hur (The role went to Charlton Heston who won an Oscar), and Bridge on the River Kwai (the role went to Alec Guiness, who Won an Oscar for it).
Meanwhile A Farewell To Arms was not well received and was one of Rock Hudson's only bombs.
You've no doubt heard the term "beefcake". It refers to a man that's well-built and devastatingly handsome. If that sounds a lot like Rock Hudson to you there's a reason for that. Hudson was listed as 6' 5", but many people say he was even taller. He appeared along side John Wayne and James Stewart, both said to be 6'4", and was considerably taller.
The term was coined by writer Sidney Skolsky who was talking specifically about Hudson. The term endures to this day and has applied to countless Hollywood leading men.
Hudson died of complications from the AIDS virus in 1985. That was a time where both the virus and being gay were considered taboo and not the type of thing that happened to Hollywood stars. Rumors swirled about Hudson's sexuality throughout most of his career, and it might be considered the worst kept secret in Hollywood.
While many dispute it, and some others attempt to prove it, Hudson appears to have never tried too hard to hide it. Many of his co-stars were aware, and after his diagnoses Hudson donated $250,000 to the fledgling National Aids Research Foundation to help get it started. He also authorized a biography, Rock Hudson: His Story, that went into great detail about his private life.