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Closeted Gay Star's Secrets Revealed In New Rock Hudson Documentary

Closeted Gay Star's Secrets Revealed In New Rock Hudson Documentary

Rock Hudson
Lee Garlington/HBO

Check out the first trailer for the new HBO documentary Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed

Rock Hudson’s good looks and natural charisma made him the ideal midcentury movie star, but behind the scenes he was forced to lead a double life. A new HBO documentary explores Hudson’s life as an actor and closeted gay man who died of AIDS-related complications in 1985.

On Thursday, HBO shared the first trailer for the documentary Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed which details the life, death, and lasting legacy of a leading man whose sexuality was one of Hollywood’s biggest open secrets.

Hudson rose to fame in the 1950s, a time when a homophobic world and controlling studio system made him hide his true sexuality. The trailer explains that the Hollywood hearthrob was "the last of those manufactured stars" whose life was completely controlled by a harsh studio system.

Every aspect of his personal life and public persona were created by studio heads, publicists, and agents — who even forced him into a three-year long marriage to a woman — all the while living in fear that the public would discover his likely career-ending secret.

The documentary will also explore Hudson’s July 1985 public announcement of his AIDS diagnosis after keeping it a secret for more than a year and the impact of his subsequent death at age 59 on Oct. 2, 1985.

"Nearly four years into the AIDS pandemic, Hudson’s death was a wakeup call for the public and helped elevate serious discussions of the treatment of HIV and AIDS into the mainstream, forcing a reckoning both socially and politically," the official synopsis reads.

Rick Hudson with lover Lee Garlington

Rick Hudson with lover Lee Garlington

Martin Flaherty & The Rock Hudson Estate Collection/HBO

A beloved actor being open about their diagnosis began to change public perception of the disease, leading to an influx of donations and Congress finally stepping in to appropriate $221 million to develop a cure mere days after Hudson’t death.

But director Stephen Kijak wanted to explore more than the Pillow Talk actor’s AIDS diagnosis. The documentary will detail Hudson’s life as a gay icon and as a huge movie star and boasts interviews with one of the actor’s former lovers.

“There is so much more around his story,” Kijak said in an interview with the New York Times. “The Hollywood closet, the manufactured personality, the double life, the way the private existed weirdly under the surface of the manicured facade.”

Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed will make its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival on June 11 after which it will land on HBO and MAX on June 28.

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Ariel Messman-Rucker

Ariel Messman-Rucker is an Oakland-born journalist who now calls the Pacific Northwest her home. When she’s not writing about politics and queer pop culture, she can be found reading, hiking, or talking about horror movies with the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network.

Ariel Messman-Rucker is an Oakland-born journalist who now calls the Pacific Northwest her home. When she’s not writing about politics and queer pop culture, she can be found reading, hiking, or talking about horror movies with the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network.