★★★★★ | Tab Hunter Confidential

Tab Hunter was and still is at the age of 83-years old a stunningly handsome man.

When he was a teen idol in the 1950s he was the ultimate clean-cut, all-American boy and seemingly butter would not melt in his mouth. He was Warner Brothers Studio’s biggest box office movie star for at least three years of his tenure there. Surprisingly, we learn from this documentary, that Tab’s sexuality didn’t play a part in the ending of his Hollywood career. It was the actor’s own desire to buy himself out of his studio contract. Even though he was a major star, Hunter was extremely unhappy with the lightweight fluffy movies that he was always having to make.

Tab Hunter Confidential is based on the memoir that Hunter penned with film historian Eddie Muller in 2005. It is a lively account of how this handsome matinee idol, with a rigid set of principles, coped with his dramatic professional and personal life. His sexuality, although hidden from the public in the early days, was no deterrent for studio mogul Jack Warner who never raised the subject. He was simply happy that Hunter was such a moneymaker for him. When on one occasion Hunter’s privacy was sacrificed to save Rock Hudson from being exposed, Warner defended him with a blunt, “Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s toilet paper.”

With his career fading, Hunter resorted to dinner theatre and whatever work he could get to scrape by until his career got a second wind in the 1980s when he co-starred in Polyester with Divine.

The most interesting part of the story is Hunter’s romances ranging from ice skater Ronnie Robertson to actor Tony Perkins, the latter who managed to break his heart and steal a role that he had coveted. In an era when homosexuality was not only illegal but could also destroy lives, Hunter resisted taking the well-worn path of other closeted gay men in the public eye who had marriages of convenience. True, he very publicly ‘dated’ many starlets and took part in many photo spreads in fanzines with them, but he resisted the pressure to opt for the easy way out by getting wed.

Hunter a very devout Catholic explains his dilemma at the time: “If you were with a man you would be sinning, and if you were with a woman you would be lying.”

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He did, as Debbie Reynolds confirmed, make the right choice and he eventually was able to come to terms with his sexuality by accepting the Church’s teaching on love and self-acceptance.

Some 30 years ago, Hunter aged 53 met a 23-year-old man called Allan Glazer who became his partner, and now after three decades together Glazer is a producer of this documentary which may be a reason why there is little of him in this movie. Since Hunter’s second movie with Divine in 1985 Lust In The Dust, he has settled down to a life away from the spotlight on his ranch with Glazer raising horses.

Emmy Award winner Jeffrey Schwarz directs the movie, and this is his fourth documentary of a gay icon (Vito, Jack Wrangler and Divine). Schwarz shows a genuine affection for his subjects and the portraits he paints are very insightful and totally riveting. He reintroduces this disarmingly charming man to those of us who have memories of Hunter growing up, and present him to a new generation, who will see him as a role model that they can look up too.

 

The Tab Hunter DVD is available to buy