TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL: Ultimate Survivor – How He Lived To Tell It All in New Movie


‘He never took himself too seriously,’ said co-star Lanie Kazan,

which may  account for ,  in part, why he’s still around.  Says

Debbie Reynolds, it was his  true blue, honest quality.



For a guy who never felt it was necessary to make a big splash  ‘coming out,’ he managed

to carve out a life for himself – a happy one at that , to this day. After reading about other gay actors of

the 50s and 60s who may  have even tried harder than Hunter and  still didn’t attain great satisfaction

in life  – Rock Hudson and Tony Perkins  come to  mind -it’s nice to see that Hunter did. Credit him

greatly for this accomplishment in the most difficult  of times.



When his career dried up in the mid-60s because he didn’t  change – or the world

could  no longer accept the clean cut kid of the Fifties in a Peter Fonda/Easy Rider-type

movie  i n the late  60s- Hunter was content to live a quiet life with his horses until John

Waters brought him back in the campy movie ‘Polyester’ in 1981 that became a cult


‘Lust in the Dust’ was another  campy movie  that Hunter and his new partner- who he

remains with after 30 years –  were able to put together without the aid of a major

backer or movie studio.  Besides acting, Hunter had a successful recording career with 

with nearly 50 singles and one monster hit, ‘Young Love'(see and here below) that

stayed on the  charts at No. 1 for six weeks





Hunter is the subject of a new movie documentary ‘The Tab Hunter Confidential, ‘ based on the

book of the same name, now  in theaters this

week; not sure about next week. But you should see it even on video if you miss it in the theater.

Even for those who still question the gay lifestyle, this movie may finally awaken you -you can’t help

but like Hunter.  He’s a natural through and through.




The movie consists of Hunter  as narrator, recounting his life story  from the early 50s

when he accidentally got into the movies , expounding on one vignette after another,

accompanied by current ‘testimonials’ from some of the few actors and actresses still

alive who he worked with. 

One thing that  struck this viewer was

how natural and down to earth he was and is. Hunter  has an amazing likability factor.

There was and is no hint of scandal surrounding Hunter; goes to show they can still 

make great movies without intrigue or scandal, at least in our opinion.

  While other gay actors like  Hudson  and  Perkins , who were with ‘pretend’ women in

their  lives-with Perkins it wasn’t so pretend as he had several kids- the easy-going

Hunter  wasn’t rattled by the persecution of gays and had the inclination and ability to

be able to  to pick and choose his movie roles and the people

he wanted to be with.




There were periods when he wasn’t with anybody and he would find pleasure with his horse friends.

Today he remains tied to his stable of horse(s) and gets up early everyday to tend to his horse(s),

according to his long time companion.




How a guy could  go from a successful movie and music career in the  ‘repressive’

Fifties while being gay to losing it all, career-wise, in the late Sixties during a time when

there was supposedly more freedom, to make a dramatic comeback in the 1980s at an

advanced age for a movie star and still seem youthful and full of life today at 85 is pretty

amazing.  I think it shows that a good sense of self

and good friendship(s)  and interests can go a long way. Much of the years he wasn’t

making movies he was looking after his elderly mother, with whom he had a good

relationship even though she could be tough on him.




Hunter is now       retired from acting for good but doesn’t   miss the limelight

at all, according to his friend, who also says that Hunter has no interest in watching his old movies

anymore; in fact, when they come on TV he says  Hunter will turn the channel..  Hunter and friend

live relatively modestly in Santa Barbara well out of the spotlight.




It was nice that the contented, mild-mannered Hunter, would  make this , perhaps, one

last movie, a documentary, so we can see the famous actor who’s been through a lot-

someone you would never

expect to be so nice and humble – to be just that and

have not only survived but have led a pretty much happy existence throughout, a rarity

for Hollywood then and now.  Some people change with the times but Tab Hunter never

seemed to try to change his personality to adapt to current trends.  He either fit in or he

didn’t and he usually did- if he wanted to.



Most people today wouldn’t know Tab Hunter from Art Gelien (his real name). But,

younger generations might learn a lot from seeing what the old Hollywood studios could turn out and

some of the actors that turned out. Hunter may not have won any academy awards but he was

convincing  in  a lot of good movies like Damned Yankees and Battle Cry  with some great co-

stars –  and he has some very interesting and

funny stories to tell along the way, Catch ‘the Tab Hunter Confidential’ if you can.  There were only

a total of three people in the theater on this opening Friday night, which might not bode well for the

film, but, as Tab Hunter might say, it’s more important to put out a good film than to worry about

how many tickets it sells.   (Of course, the Steve Jobs big box office movie , no longer in theaters,

which we were going to see hasn’t done that well, either; glad we saw this one instead.



In the ‘Confidential’ movie -and previous (2005) book of the same name -Hunter reveals what is was like to be a 1950s-era star—to be created, packaged, and sold to the American public, shaped and controlled by the studio system that ran Hollywood until the 1970s. Hunter also discloses:

  • His co-stars, actresses Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Sophia Loren, Debbie Reynolds, Tallulah Bankhead, and Divine, and the actors Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Fred Astaire, Robert Mitchum, and Van Heflin.
  • His films, from the box office hits Damn Yankees and Battle Cry to the cult classics Polyester and Lust in the Dust
  • His on- and off-screen relationships
  • His music career, including the #1 hit song “Young Love,” which topped the Billboard chart for six weeks
  • The demands that were placed on him, including sexual favors, and what it felt like to suddenly see his face—and often, his half-naked torso—on the covers of dozens of magazines
  • His comeback as a cult sensation, thanks to John Waters

But, those were the bullet points that were used to sell the book (and movie); just to see

the down-to-earth guy, as he is today, weave the story of his life in such an entertaining

and fun way, recounting story after story from   old (and newer) Hollywood, is a true

delight.  Few other living actors today would have the credentials (or ability) to match this

effort.  As a sidelight, it’s also fun to see some colorful people associated with Hollywood

we haven’t lately, such as Hollywood entertainment reporters Rona Barrett and  Rex Reed,

along the few still-living actors Hunter appeared with such as Kazan and Reynolds.




1950The LawlessJoseph Losey
1952Island of DesireStuart Heisler
1953Gun BeltRay Nazarro
1954The Steel LadyE.A. Dupont
1954Return to Treasure IslandE.A. Dupont
1954Track of the CatWilliam A. Wellman
1955Battle CryRaoul Walsh
1955The Sea ChaseJohn V. Farrow
1956The Burning HillsStuart Heisler
1956The Girl He Left BehindDavid Butler
1958Lafayette EscadrilleWilliam A. Wellman
1958Gunman’s WalkPhil Karlson
1958Damn YankeesGeorge Abbott & Stanley Donen
1959They Came to CorduraRobert Rossen
1959That Kind of WomanSidney Lumet
1961The Pleasure of His CompanyGeorge Seaton
1962L’arciere delle mille e una notte
aka La freccia d’oro
aka The Golden Arrow
Antonio Margheriti
1963Operation BikiniAnthony Carras
1964Ride the Wild SurfDon Taylor
1964Troubled WatersStanley Goulder
1964War Gods of the DeepJacques Tourneur
1965The Loved OneTony Richardson
1966Birds Do ItAndrew Marton
1966The Fickle Finger of Fate
aka El dedo del destino
Richard Rush
1967Hostile GunsR.G. Springsteen
1968One Step to Hell
aka Rey de Africa
aka Caccia ai violenti
Sandy Howard
1968Scacco internazionale
aka International Checkmate
aka The Last Chance
Nini Giuseppe Rosatti
1968Bridge Over ElbaLeon Klimovsky
1968La vendetta e il mio perdonoRobert Mauri
1969La porta del cannoneLeopoldo Savoni
1970The Arousers
aka Sweet Kill
aka A Kiss from Eddie
Curtis Hanson
1972The Life and Times of Judge Roy BeanJohn Huston
1973Timber TrampsTay Garnett
1976Won Ton Ton,
the Dog Who Saved Hollywood
Michael Winner
1981PolyesterJohn Waters
1982PandemoniumAlfred Sole
1982Grease 2Patricia Birch
1985Lust in the DustPaul Bartel
1987GrotesqueJoe Tornatore
1988Out of the DarkMichael Schroeder
1989Cameron’s ClosetArmand Mastroianni
1992Dark HorseDavid Hemmings