Rock Hudson Overview:

Legendary actor, Rock Hudson, was born Roy Harold Scherer Jr. on Nov 17, 1925 in Winnetta, IL. Hudson appeared in over 70 film and TV roles. His best known films include Giant, Written on the Wind, Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, A Farewell to Arms, Man's Favorite Sport, and his three films with Doris Day: Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers. Hudson also starred as Police Commissioner Stewart 'Mac' McMillan in the popular mystery series McMillan & Wife (1971-1977) and had a recurring role as Daniel Reece on the prime time soap Dynasty (1984-1985). Hudson died at the age of 59 on Oct 2, 1985 in Beverly Hills, CA and was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.

Early Life

Rock Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr on November 17th, 1925 in Winnetka, Illinois to a working class family. His mother, Katherine, worked as a telephone operator and his heavy drinking father, Roy, was an auto mechanic. During the height of the depression, Roy lost his job and soon after walked out on the family, leaving Katherine to take care the young Rock on her own. When Rock was eight-years old, his mother remarried to man named Wallace Fitzgerald. The formed a good relationship with his stepfather and would eventually take the surname of Fitzgerald. Although Hudson never had a passion for academic and did poorly in school, he still participated in his school's glee club. It was during this time that Hudson began developing dreams of becoming an actor but failed to gain any parts due to difficulty remember lines. After narrowly graduating high school, Hudson put his dreams of acting on hold to serve in the Military. He enrolled in the Navy, where he served in the Philippines as an airplane mechanic.  

Early Career

Upon returning to the United States in 1946, Hudson moved to Los Angeles, ready to start his acting career. He applied to the University of Southern California's dramatic arts program but was rejected because of his poor grades. For the next year he sustained himself financially by working various odd jobs, including truck driver and mover. In is free time, Hudson would loiter around the studios, passing out his head shots to agents, executives, and anyone he thought could get him ahead. His gumption and tenacity would prove worthwhile when in 1947 talent scout Henry Wilson took interest in charming and attractive young man. Wilson soon took the boy with dreams of stardom under his wing and began crafting him a new image. His first order of business was a name change. And with that Roy Harold Fitzgerald became Rock Hudson.


With no formal acting training, his big screen debut in the 1948 Warner Brothers film Fighter Squadron most certainly did not go off without a hitch. Hired more for his good looks than acting ability, it would take Hudson 38 takes to get a single line correct. After the ordeal, Wilson immediately enrolled Hudson in acting, singing, dancing and fencing lessons. Soon after Hudson signed a contract with Universal pictures, who not only furthered Hudson's acting training but also promoted his good look in film magazines. During the start of the 1950's, Hudson was mostly relegated to bit in westerns. In 1950 he appeared six films, including Peggy, Winchester '73, and The Desert Hawk, never making it past sixth billing. Hudson kept up his busy pace next year, appearing in five more films yet still remained relegated to bit parts. In 1952 Hudson began receiving more prominent roles. He starred opposite Yvonne De Carlo in the romance-western Scarlet Angel. He immediately followed that with the romantic comedy Has Anybody Seen My Gal opposite Piper Laurie. The film also marked the first time Hudson worked with director Douglas Sirk, who would be instrumental in catapulting Hudson's career. The next year he starred in the Budd Boetticher Western Seminole opposite Anthony Quinn. The film was a hit and proved Hudson's bankability as a leading man. The next year, he once again worked with Douglas Sirk in the western Taza, Son of Cochise. In the film Hudson plays Taza, peace-loving apache Indian who hopes to avoid war with other Indian factions.


After completing Taza, Hudson and Sirk began working on the melodrama The Magnificent Obsession opposite Jane Wyman. In the film Hudson plays Bob Merrick, a rich playboy whose irresponsible behavior inadvertently causes the death of a town hero Dr. Phillips. While on his journey of redemption, Merrick finds himself falling in love with the widow Phillips. The film was huge hit with critics and audiences, and solidified Hudson's ability as leading man in a major Hollywood picture outside of the western genre. The next year Hudson would once again pair with Sirk and Wyman for yet another romantic melodrama, All That Heaven Allows. Although the film was released to mix reviews, it has gained been viewed by film scholars a great social critique of the 1950's social conformity. Despite the mix reviews, the film was hit and Hudson's popularity only grew. With his stardom at such a high level, he felt even more pressure to hide his sexual preference. In 1955 his agent Henry Wilson arranged a "lavender marriage" for Hudson, to quash any rumor that his biggest star was homosexual. The sham marriage would only last three years.

In 1956 Hudson's star power landed him a 100,000-dollar paycheck for his next film, the George Stevens' three and a half hour epic Giant with James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. In the film, Hudson plays Jordon Benedict, head of the largest cattle ranching family in Texas. The film chronicles his life with is wife, played by Taylor and rivalry of ranch hand turned oil tycoon, played by Dean. The film was major critically and commercially, raking in over 12 million at the box office. For his efforts, Hudson received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Lead Actor. The next year he starred in Charles Vidor's big screen adaptation of A Farewell to Arms. The film was an absolute flop, failing to impress the critics or the box-office. The film was such a failure that David O' Selznick would never produce a film again.

Comedy and continued career

In 1959 Hudson was cast opposite Doris Day in the Michael Gordon comedy Pillow Talk. In the film Hudson plays a womanizing song composer who shares who shares a phone line with interior decorator Doris Day. The film was a huge hit and began a new comedic direction for Hudson's career. In 1961 he starred with Gina Lollobrigida, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin in Come September. That same year he reteamed with Doris Day for yet another romantic comedy Lover Come Back. The next year he took a break from Comedy to star in the Robert Mulligan adventure film The Spiral Road. In 1964 he made his last romantic comedy with Doris Day, Send me No Flowers. Like their previous films, it was hit at the box-office. The next year he starred yet again with Gina Lollobrigida in the Strange Bedfellows.

In 1966 Hudson starred in the John Frankenheimer's Seconds. The film was flop upon its original release but has since been grown to have a strong cult following. The next year he starred in the war drama Tobruk, which was moderate success. In 1968 he lobbied for role Cdr. James Ferraday in John Sturges Ice Station Zebra and received it only after Lawrence Oliver dropped out. He finished out the Decade by returning to the Western opposite John Wayne in The Undefeated.

Move to Television and Decline

After 1960's Hudson's big screen popularity began to diminish. Unhappy with the scripts he'd been offered, Hudson decided to make the move from the big screen to the small.  In 1971 he starred in the TV movie Once Upon a Dead Man airing in NBC. Later that year he signed on to star in the series McMillan and Wife. The show was modeled after witty detecting married couple Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man. In the series, Hudson played Police Commissioner Stewart McMillan who solves crimes with help from his flaky but helpful wide, Sally. The series was a hit and lasted six seasons.

By the 1980's years of heavy smoking and drinking had taken a toll on the once robust leading man. In 1981 Hudson suffered a massive heart attack and was forced to undergo quintuple bypass surgery. His long recovery forced him self any projects. As a result his new television show, The Devlin Connection, was quickly cancelled. He then starred opposite Robert Mitchum in 1984 The Ambassador. The film was his last theatrical role. Over the next year his health continued to rapidly decline. In 1984 Hudson was cast in the popular prime time soap opera Dynasty. Although his character was originally meant to have a larger role throughout the series, his health cause massive weight loss and made him forget his lines. His character was then written off the show and suffered an off screen death.

Death and Legacy

In June of 1984, Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS. Due to the stigma surrounding the disease, Hudson's publicity machine originally stated the star was suffer from terminal cancer. Soon after, however, Hudson came clean and admitted to be suffering from the little understood disease. Rock Hudson died on October 2, 1985 due to complications of AIDS at his Beverly Hills home. He was 59 years old.

Hudson's tragic death irrevocably changed the way American viewed AIDS. Before his death, AIDS was dismissed as"The gay disease" with funding or priority in the medical field. As the first high profile celebrity to die from the disease, Hudson's death gave AIDS a face. His death gave compassion, funding, and awareness to the plight of AIDS. And in a sense, that remains a greater legacy than his career.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).


Hudson's autobiography Rock Hudson: His Story was published in 1986.


Rock Hudson starred in three movies with Doris Day and Tony Randall: Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers.



Although Hudson was nominated for one Oscar, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1956Best ActorGiant (1956)Bick BenedictNominated

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Rock Hudson's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #113 on Sep 26, 1956.

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Rock Hudson Quotes:

Capt. Jeffrey Claybourne: I can't marry you. For a moment I forgot what I am.

Major Craig: We got two chances: a poor one and a slim one.

Major Craig: My mother didn't raise any heroes.

read more quotes from Rock Hudson...

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