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ROCK HUDSON FAST FACTS

Real Name: Roy Harold Scherer, Jr.
Date of Birth: November 17, 1925
Place of Birth: Winnetka, Illinois, USA
Date of Death: October 2, 1985
Place of Death: Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of Death: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome [AIDS]
Spouse: Phyllis Gates [1955-1958, divorced]
Nickname: Roy or Leroy
Height: 6'4" - 6'6" depending on the info source
He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.

Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. was tall, dark, handsome and muscular, just what Universal-International needed to develop one of the last major stars under the studio system. A former mail carrier, Navy airplane mechanic, and truck driver, his name was changed to Rock Hudson. His teeth were capped and he was given lessons in acting, elocution, riding, fencing and singing. He posed for several hundred publicity photos which were distributed to all the fan magazines.

It took him 38 takes to deliver one line in his film debut in 1948's Fighter Squadron. But he had star potential, so Universal-International [U-I] brought him along slowly. He played bit and supporting parts in many films before getting his first leading role in 1952's Scarlet Angel opposite Yvonne De Carlo. He starred in some action films, most notably, 1953's The Golden Blade and Back to God's Country, and 1954's Taza, Son of Cochise. The role that made Rock a star had also made Robert Taylor a star nearly two decades before. They both played reckless playboy turned respectable neurosurgeon Bob Merrick in the filmization of the Lloyd C. Douglas novel Magnificent Obsession. Robert Taylor played the part in the 1935 original and Rock Hudson played it in the 1954 remake opposite Jane Wyman as the woman he blinds, then saves. The film was a huge hit and Rock received good reviews.

Rock Hudson was U-I's top male star and starred in both big-budget soapers and actioners throughout the 1950s: Bengal Brigade (1954), Captain Lightfoot, One Desire opposite Anne Baxter, All That Heaven Allows again opposite Jane Wyman (all 1955), Never Say Goodbye, Battle Hymn, Written on the Wind opposite Lauren Bacall, Four Girls in Town (all 1956), The Tarnished Angels (1957), Twilight for the Gods (1958), and This Earth Is Mine opposite Jean Simmons (1959). U-I gave Rock the best parts the studio had to offer, but he achieved his greatest successes while on loan. In 1956 George Stevens chose him to play Texas oilman Bick Benedict in the filmization of the Edna Ferber novel Giant. His co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, would become a lifelong friend. Rock received his only Oscar nomination for his role in Giant. David O. Selznick selected him to play an Army ambulance driver opposite Jennifer Jones in the 1957 remake of Ernest Hemingway's WW1 saga A Farewell to Arms.

1959's Pillow Talk, a lively and funny sex comedy also starring Doris Day, marked a new phase in his career. He demonstrated his comedic talent and would go on to make several features of the same type with the virginal Miss Day. In 1966 he starred in Seconds, a psychological thriller directed by John Frankenheimer. The film did not get good reviews at the time, but has become a cult classic and is one of Rock Hudson's best films. The 1960s came to a close with him starring in 1968's Ice Station Zebra and opposite John Wayne in 1969's The Undefeated.

His popularity on the big screen diminished in the 1970s, but he was quite successful on television starring in several telefilms and the series "McMillan and Wife" opposite Susan Saint James from 1971 to 1977.

In the early 1980s he starred on the TV series "The Devlin Connection." Production on the series was suspended for a year while Rock recovered from quintuple bypass heart surgery necessitated by his years of cigarette smoking and heavy drinking. By the time Rock had taken the role of a suave horse breeder on the TV series "Dynasty," the AIDS virus was consuming him. Hudson suffered memory loss and was forced to use cue cards. He also had difficulty speaking. He was the first major public figure to announce he was a homosexual with AIDS, and his worldwide search for a cure drew international attention. After his death on October 2, 1985, his companion Marc Christian successfully sued his estate, again calling attention to the homosexuality Rock had hidden from most of his career. As Morgan Fairchild said, "Rock Hudson's death gave AIDS a face."

A retrospective on Rock Hudson was featured on CNN's Larry King Live on Wednesday, October 1, 2003.
To read a transcript of the show, CLICK HERE.

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