Tab Hunter biographical film reveals studio control
Tab Hunter is set to appear in a film about himself, a documentary which is set to look into the double life he led as a gay man hidden behind the Hollywood studio system that was extremely controlling of its stars images.
The film will be adapted from the book he wrote about his experiences called Tab Hunter Confidential. The film will be directed by Jeffrey Schwartz who has directed a number of documentaries which are around a similar period, setting and subject.
Jeffrey Schwartz also directed Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, a film about the Jack Wrangler gay adult film star who crossed over to straight adult films and married the singer Margaret Whiting, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, the story about the film-maker who loved to employ gimmicks in the film theatre to pull in the audience to the experience, and I Am Divine, his current film about Divine, the cross-dressing star most remembered for his/her John Waters films, in which Tab Hunter also appears.
The film will tell the story of how Arthur Andrew Kelm rose from being a stable boy to a famous actor named Tab Hunter, working for Warner Brothers studio, when the studios were all controlling and all powerful in Hollywood, and even controlled the stars themselves.
While the studio promoted his lifestyle of an eligible bachelor to appeal to female and male fans alike, with magazines and gossip columns talking about his romances with women, Hunter, and the studio, were keeping his sexuality a secret, even when he had relationships with other actors such as Anthony Perkins.
One of the producers of the film talks about the story and of Hunter's situation through the Variety article:
"While he and Tony Perkins were lovers, they were on the covers of magazines that asked which of them would get married first. Has it changed that much in Hollywood? If a virile old-fashioned movie star came along like Tab, how would the studios, the financiers and the public respond to the idea he might be gay? Would that star not have to stay in the closet, like Tab and Rock Hudson?"
However it's not just about his life as a public figure hiding his sexuality, it's also about the other actors who were being controlled and exploited by the system:
"The film will also explore Tab's relationship with Henry Willson, this manager who had a stable of stars he exploited. Tab talks about the studio machine, how the publicists and the execs would lock the door and say, 'There are rumors.' They were basically told who to romance, and when Rock Hudson was told to get married, he did. Tab has plenty of stories about the old studio system, about being under contract and how they swept everything under the rug."
It seems a long time ago that such practices were commonplace, and yet it's not really that long ago, the studio system had a strong control over the talent in Hollywood for a very long time, and let's not lay all the blame there either, actors are still scared to this day of announcing if they are gay for that can really harm their career and how they are perceived. We, the audience, must take some of the blame too.
The documentary will be an interesting one if it explores more than Tab Hunter's story. I would think that film fans would want the story to delve into the lives other stars were forced to live, such as Rock Hudson's marriage, and how controlling the studios really were.
It would be a good thing if the documentary went some way to breaking the negativity over such revelations, or even to make it a complete moot issue. After all should it really matter what sexuality the actor is? They are after all, actors.