New Rock Hudson biography reveals the secrets the closeted star tried to hide

Rock Hudson was everything a romantic leading man could be in the 1950s and ‘60s – hunky, clean-cut, extraordinarily handsome – so much so that he ascended to a place where he was considered the “king of Hollywood” and lived in a Beverly Hills mansion nicknamed “The Castle.”

But as author Mark Griffin points out in his exhaustive and empathetic biography “All That Heaven Allows” (Harper, 496 pp., ★★★ out of four stars), the actor paid a heavy personal price for his preeminence.

Deeply closeted in an era where an openly gay man could never be a celluloid hero, Hudson – a matinee idol of the first order who wooed Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Gina Lollobrigida and Doris Day onscreen, and starred most successfully and famously in films like “Giant” and “Pillow Talk” – spent his life and career hiding in plain sight.

That’s the narrative thrust of this on-screen/off-screen examination of Hudson: “Long before he landed in Hollywood, he understood that if he wanted to be accepted, the very essence of who he was would have to be edited out of the frame.”

And that’s exactly what Hudson did, until the public disclosure of his AIDS diagnosis, shortly before his death in 1985 at age 59, cast him in a new role as the face of a global and much misunderstood pandemic.

Griffin fills in what’s left to say in between the lines with an impressive list of interviews with movie star friends, acquaintances and co-stars and also digs deep into private journals and correspondence.

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