Category Archives: films

Remembering Tab Hunter and What He Represented

I was a bit too young to have a clear memory of the actor,Tab Hunter. But during the 1960’s I was aware of his film personae.  He played the clean cut, handsome boy next door whom the girls were crazy about. Hunter sold this as part of the American brand. And he sold it well.

Here he is, looking the part.

Image result for Tab Hunter

That character type found its way into many a Hollywood movie. And it reflected mainstream values of those days.  It was tempting to believe that the characters were real, rather than manufactured. Indeed, nurturing the belief that it was more than just acting was a key part of maintaining the popularity of the brand.

It was much later that we learned that actors like Tab Hunter and Rock Hudson were not at all like those characters. They were instead, real people who had their own sense of propriety and sexuality that they kept secret, The world didn’t learn that Hunter was gay until 2005 when he came out.  The truth about Hudson might not have come out if he had not contracted HIV back in 1984.

My how the world has changed.  Back in the early 60’s I don’t think the phrase “coming out” meant anything more than a party where a young girl was introduced to society. A much older tradition that is largely forgotten.

Image result for coming out party

I bring all this up in part to say so long to Hunter who passed on the other day at the ripe old age of 86,  I also pose this question — thinking back on those days, we all were expected to conform. Did that make life simpler? Some might like to remember it that way, but I think not.

What do you think?

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A Wonderful Cary Grant Film that You Might Have Missed!

When you think of the great actor, Cary Grant, what films come to mind? Before you think too deeply, you might note that between 1932 and 1966, Grant acted in at least 76 films Wow! That is a lot of work! Not just that, when you think about it, Grant did a lot of very high quality work.

I love Grant’s comedic work in Bringing Up Baby, and Arsenic and Old Lace.  And his romantic leads in The Philadelphia Story, His Gal Friday, , North By Northwest, To Catch a Thief, Notorious are iconic.  He was also in two of my favorite films of all time . Charade and Father Goose.  He was also surprisingly good as a much suffering U Boat commander in Operation Petticoat (a war film where no one gets killed!)  See what I mean? Grant did it all!

But I tend NOT to think of him as a doctor. who also directs an orchestra. Hmmm … he did play that role, and he played it very well in the 1951 Mankiewitz film, “People Will Talk”.  It is a most unusual work for its time — and still fun to watch!

I just watched it, and loved it! Check it out!

BTW, his co-star is Jeanne Crain. If you can’t quite place her, she played a lovely role in the 1945 Walter Lang film based on Rogers and Hammerstein’s  “State Fair”.

Enjoy!

A Post Script — One of the more attractive qualities of this film relates to Grant’s character as a leader. He has certain values, acts on those values, and sticks to them throughout the story, which becomes a key aspect of the dramatic tension. Can he survive being a bit different?

We tend to think of the 1950’s as the high point for conformity. And to a certain extent it was. But our view of the 1950’s is colored by what happened in the following decades that proclaimed their rebellion from the 1950’s. Sort of what Shakespeare did to Richard III, serving the interests of the dynasty that had usurped his crown. So I think it is fair to say that the 1950’s gets a bum rap. There were non-conformist elements percolating even in 1951, and this film evidences that trend.

How was it different? The Grant character is a non-conformist but he is not an outcast (not an Easy Rider sort of figure). And he works with the system that he has issues with. His revolution is not about tearing down institutions, but waking them up to humanist values. And he trusts people. Trust was not broken by the strife that became widespread in the 1960’s over culture, race and war.