Stephen Kijack directed the documentary, now streaming on Max.


Rock Hudson died nearly 40 years ago. Nowadays, you don't hear a lot about him, but he is more of an icon than many modern movie fans may realize.

Hudson was born in November 1925 in Illinois and began taking an interest in acting during his teenage years. He moved to Hollywood after World War II, and landed several supporting roles, leading to his notable performances in Douglas Sirk's romantic melodramas Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955). In George Stephens' Giant (1956), he earned an Academy Award nomination, alongside James Dean.

Directed by Stephen Kijak, the documentary uses a limited number of interviews, focusing on clips of Hudson's films that help illustrate the narrative of the film, which turns out to be a genius move. The audience can almost see the gay undertones in his acting and how the actor was trying to hide those sentiments for fear of having his career tarnished forever.

This movie has a certain flare around it that spotlights Hudson's memorable career. It never stays too long on an innocuous subject, instead putting its driving force on Hudson's sexuality and the lack of tolerance his country felt about people like him during the time that he grew up and made a splash in his career.

It's also good to see that director Kijak pulls no punches when telling Hudson's story for an audience that knew of him and adored his work. The movie is glossed with Hollywood pizazz, even as it goes heavy on some serious topics at play. Many documentaries will play up the grandiose schmaltz of what their subject was without ever scratching the surface but this film has the gumption and drive to tell audiences what this man was really like. It's beautiful to see.

The documentary succeeds in giving Hudson a human form rather than simply a masculine face that people loved. Or a person with a terrible disease that far too many ended up deriding.

The film is now streaming on Max.

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DocumentaryHBO MaxMaxRock HudsonStephen Kijak

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