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H Entries
Earl Hamner, Jr.
Tom Hanks
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HUDSON, ROCK
(Roy Scherer 1925–1985). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Lover Come Back (Delbert Mann 1961); Seconds (John FRANKENHEIMER 1966); Ice Station Zebra (1968); Embryo (Ralph Nelson 1976); The Martian Chronicles (tv movie) (Michael ANDERSON 1979); World War III (tv movie) (Boris SAGAL and David Greene 1982).
 
As a handsome young performer, Rock Hudson never needed to act, only to appear relaxed and confident in front of the camera, and after he quickly mastered that trick, his elevation to film stardom was perhaps inevitable. Then, as his career progressed, he got better and better at acting, and less and less interested in doing it, as can be all too apparent in some of his later performances. Still, during his infrequent ventures into science fiction films, Hudson could respond to worthwhile material by employing his subdued style to good effect.

While he was one of Hollywood's biggest attractions, Hudson's nearest approach to science fiction came in the best of his lightweight comedies, Lover Come Back, wherein one plot element is an amazing intoxicating pill, invented to serve as the nonexistent product that advertiser Hudson had inadvertently promoted. But his proper introduction to the genre came in Seconds, where he portrayed an elderly man refashioned into a young man with a different identity who nevertheless grows dissatisfied with his inauthentic new life. Still, Hudson's greatest performance could not make John FRANKENHEIMER's downbeat drama a box-office success, and the actor drifted into westerns and action movies, like the routine Ice Station Zebra, before settling into a long-running television series, McMillan and Wife (1971-1977).

As his film appearances grew rarer, Hudson found himself miscast as a brilliant scientist in Embryo (just at the moment when film producers were realizing that handsome hunks could not credibly portray brilliant scientists), but even a better-chosen protagonist could not have salvaged this dubious variant on the Frankenstein story involving the artificial creation of a beautiful woman who acts like a monster. He was more effective in two overlooked television movies: in The Martian Chronicles, his emotional numbness was perfectly appropriate as a response to Ray BRADBURY's incohesive source material, and in World War III, he was very persuasive as a weak vice president, accidentally elevated to the presidency, who cannot prevent unfolding events from leading to a nuclear holocaust. But his career was put on hold by quintuple heart bypass surgery, and in a few years he was dead.

I have scrupulously avoided any mention of the fact that Hudson was a deeply closeted gay man, outed only as he was dying of AIDS, because I do not believe it is relevant to any evaluation of his acting career. As was not the case with another gay actor, Thomas TRYON, I can detect no evidence that Hudson was troubled by his double life of romancing women on the set by day and frequenting gay bars by night, or that he sought out or was especially inspired by roles that related to his personal situation. It is fanciful, I think, to theorize that Hudson relished the experience of Seconds because he was playing an attractive young man who was not what he seemed, or that he was attracted to Embryo because its story embodied the homosexual fantasy of having a child without a woman involved. Rather, Hudson enjoyed both aspects of his life, feeling no inner torments about their disparate rewards, and one does not require invented autobiographical resonances to value Hudson's few, but memorable, contributions to science fiction film.

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