Born Roy Harold Scherer Jr. in Winnetka, Illinois, on November 17, 1925, Rock Hudson's father abandoned his family during the depths of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. His mother remarried and his stepfather adopted him, changing his last name to Fitzgerald. Following a stint in the Navy during World War II, Hudson went to Hollywood to get into the movies. He worked as a truck driver for a couple of years to support himself, longing to be an actor but with no success in breaking into the movies. A chance meeting in 1948 with powerful Hollywood agent Henry Willson got Hudson his start in the business. Impressed by the young man's stature and good looks, Willson renamed him Rock Hudson, sending him to acting school and capping his teeth. Hudson landed his first film role in the 1948 film Fighter Squadron, and in 1949 he signed with Universal-International. As Hudson had no real acting experience, Universal started him out in small roles in lower-budget pictures, including the film noir thrillers Undertow (1949) and I Was a Shoplifter (1950), both starring Scott Brady. He eventually landed better roles at Universal in the early 1950s, and by 1955 he was a star. Hudson was married only once, to Henry Willson's secretary Phyllis Gates in November 1955; they divorced in 1958. Gates, who never remarried, passed away in January 2006 at the age of 80.

Rock Hudson

Early 1960s photo

Although today Rock Hudson is remembered as an A-list actor, he appeared in many low-budget Universal-International films in the early 1950s. His breakthrough role came in the 1954 release Magnificent Obsession, starring opposite Jane Wyman. Afterward, Hudson left the B's behind until the late 1960s, when his film career began to ebb.

the films of rock hudson

Horizons West (1952)

Rock HudsonRock Hudson

From one of Hudson's westerns, Horizons West

Back to God's Country (1953)

Rock Hudson and Marcia HendersonRock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, and Hugh O'Brian

LEFT: With Marcia Henderson in Back to God's Country. RIGHT: With Marcia Henderson and Hugh O'Brian

The Golden Blade (1953)

Rock HudsonRock Hudson and Piper Laurie

Promotional photos from the colorful adventure The Golden Blade. The photo on the right features Piper Laurie

Seminole (1953)

Rock Hudson and Richard Carlson

Hudson opposes Richard Carlson in the western Seminole

Bengal Brigade (1954)

Rock HudsonRock Hudson and Ursula Thiess

From the adventure flick Bengal Brigade. The photo on the right includes Ursula Thiess

Taza, Son of Cochise (1954)

Rock Hudson and Barbara RushRock HudsonRock HudsonRock Hudson, Robert Burton, and Gregg Palmer

LEFT: With Barbara Rush in Taza, Son of Cochise. CENTER A: As Taza. CENTER B: Again as Taza. RIGHT: With Robert Burton and Gregg Palmer. Taza, Son of Cochise was originally shot in 3-D, but by the date of its release, the spectacle of 3-D had already faded, so the film was released flat (2-D)

Giant (1956)

Rock Hudson and Elizabeth TaylorRock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor

With Elizabeth Taylor in the big-budget epic Giant

Something of Value (1957)

Rock Hudson and Dana Wynter

From the MGM war drama Something of Value with Dana Wynter

Twilight for the Gods (1958)

Rock Hudson and Cyd CharisseRock Hudson and Cyd Charisse

With Cyd Charisse in Twilight for the Gods

Send Me No Flowers (1964)

Rock Hudson and Doris Day

With Doris Day in the screwball comedy Send Me No Flowers, the last and best film they made together

Seconds (1966)

Rock Hudson and Salome Jens

With Salome Jens in the John Frankenheimer thriller Seconds, probably Hudson's best dramatic film and performance

Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)

Rock Hudson and Barbara LeighRock Hudson

LEFT: With Barbara Leigh in the black comedy Pretty Maids All in a Row. RIGHT: As the murderous coach Tiger McDrew

McMillan & Wife (1971-1977 NBC TV Series)

Rock Hudson and Susan Saint JamesRock Hudson, Steve Forrest, and Dana Wynter

LEFT: With Susan Saint James in the series McMillan & Wife. RIGHT: With Dana Wynter Steve Forrest in a 1974 episode of McMillan & Wife titled The Man Without a Face

later years

By the early 1970s, Hudson's film career was in decline, so he switched to television, starring in a number of series and made-for-TV movies. His most successful series was NBC's McMillan & Wife (1971-1977). As he moved into his fifties, Hudson's health deteriorated after years of heavy drinking and smoking at least two packs a day. Heart bypass surgery in November 1981 sidelined Hudson and his then-new TV show, The Devlin Connection, for a year; the show suffered for the delay and was canceled not long after it returned to the airwaves. He recovered from the surgery, but a couple of years later Hudson's health had visibly deteriorated again, prompting rumors of cancer. In July 1985, he announced that he was suffering from AIDS, and he passed away on October 2, 1985, at the age of 59.

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Las Vegas Strip War (1984) with Sharon Stone
The Ambassador (1984) with Robert Mitchum and Donald Pleasence
World War III (1982) with David Soul and Brian Keith
The Star Maker (1981) with Frank Aletter and Fred Dryer
The Mirror Crack'd (1980) with Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, and Tony Curtis
Avalanche (1978) with Mia Farrow and Robert Forster
Embryo (1976) with Barbara Carrera, Diane Ladd, and Roddy McDowall
Showdown (1973) with Dean Martin and Susan Clark
Once Upon a Dead Man (1971) with Susan Saint James and Jack Albertson; the pilot for Macmillan and Wife
Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971) with Angie Dickinson, Roddy McDowall, John David Carson, William Campbell, and Joy Bang
Hornet's Nest (1970) with Sylva Koscina, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, and Jacques Sernas
Darling Lili (1970) with Julie Andrews
The Undefeated (1969) with John Wayne and Bruce Cabot
A Fine Pair (1969) with Claudia Cardinale, Ellen Corby, and Tony Lo Bianco
Ice Station Zebra (1968) with Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown
Tobruk (1967) with George Peppard
Seconds (1966) with Salome Jens, Will Geer, and Richard Anderson
Blindfold (1965) with Claudia Cardinale
A Very Special Favor (1965) with Leslie Caron, Nita Talbot, Walter Slezak, and Dick Shawn
Strange Bedfellows (1964) with Gina Lollobrigida and Gig Young
Send Me No Flowers (1964) with Doris Day, Tony Randall, Clint Walker, and Paul Lynde
Man's Favorite Sport? (1964) with Paula Prentiss
A Gathering of Eagles (1963) with Rod Taylor and Kevin McCarthy
The Spiral Road (1962) with Burl Ives
Lover Come Back (1961) with Doris Day, Tony Randall, Edie Adams, and Donna Douglas
Come September (1961) with Gina Lollobrigida, Walter Slezak, Bobby Darin, and Sandra Dee
The Last Sunset (1961) with Kirk Douglas, Dorothy Malone, Carol Lynley, Neville Brand, and Joseph Cotten
Pillow Talk (1959) with Doris Day, Tony Randall, Thelma Ritter, and Nick Adams
This Earth Is Mine (1959) with Jean Simmons, Dorothy McGuire, and Anna Lee
Twilight for the Gods (1958) with Cyd Charisse
Something of Value (1957) with Dana Wynter, Sidney Poitier, and William Marshall
The Tarnished Angels (1957) with Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, and Troy Donahue
A Farewell to Arms (1957) with Jennifer Jones
Battle Hymn (1957) with Dan Duryea, Martha Hyer, Jock Mahoney, and William Hudson
Written on the Wind (1956) with Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, and Grant Williams
Giant (1956) with Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Carroll Baker, and Dennis Hopper
Never Say Goodbye (1956) with George Sanders and David Janssen
All That Heaven Allows (1955) with Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead, Gloria Talbott, Virginia Grey, William Reynolds, Charles Drake, and Leigh Snowden
One Desire (1955) with Anne Baxter, Julie Adams, Natalie Wood, and William Hopper
Captain Lightfoot (1955) with Barbara Rush and Jeff Morrow
Taza, Son of Cochise (1954) with Barbara Rush, Rex Reason, Gregg Palmer, and Lance Fuller
Bengal Brigade (1954) with Arlene Dahl and Ursula Thiess
Magnificent Obsession (1954) with Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Rush, and Gregg Palmer
Back to God's Country (1953) with Steve Cochran and Hugh O'Brian
Gun Fury (1953) with Donna Reed, Lee Marvin, and Neville Brand
Seminole (1953) with Barbara Hale, Richard Carlson, Hugh O'Brian, and Anthony Quinn
The Golden Blade (1953) with Piper Laurie
Sea Devils (1953) with Yvonne De Carlo
Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952) with Piper Laurie and Gloria Holden
The Lawless Breed (1952) with Julie Adams, Hugh O'Brian, Lee Van Cleef, and Glenn Strange
Horizons West (1952) with Robert Ryan, Julie Adams, and Raymond Burr
Scarlet Angel (1952) with Yvonne De Carlo, Richard Denning, and Amanda Blake
Here Come the Nelsons (1952) with Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, and Ricky Nelson
Bend of the River (1952) with James Stewart, Julie Adams, and Lori Nelson
Bright Victory (1951) with Julie Adams and Peggy Dow
Iron Man (1951) with Jeff Chandler, Joyce Holden, and Jim Backus
The Fat Man (1951) with Julie London
Air Cadet (1951) with Richard Long and Peggie Castle
Tomahawk (1951) with Van Heflin, Yvonne De Carlo, and Susan Cabot
Shakedown (1950) with Howard Duff, Brian Donlevy, Peggie Castle, Lawrence Tierney, Peggy Dow, and Bruce Bennett
The Desert Hawk (1950) with Yvonne De Carlo and Jackie Gleason
Winchester '73 (1950) with James Stewart and Shelley Winters
Peggy (1950)
I Was a Shoplifter (1950) with Scott Brady, Andrea King, Mona Freeman, Peggie Castle, and Charles Drake
One Way Street (1950) with James Mason and William Conrad
Undertow (1949) with Scott Brady, John Russell, and Bruce Bennett
Fighter Squadron (1948) with Edmund O'Brien and Robert Stack

Dynasty, 1981-1989 TV series. Hudson portrayed Daniel Reece during the 1984-1985 season
The Devlin Connection, 1982 TV series. Hudson portrayed Brian Devlin
The Martian Chronicles, 1979 TV miniseries. Hudson portrayed Colonel John Wilder
Wheels, 1978 TV miniseries. Hudson portrayed Adam Trenton
McMillan & Wife, 1971-1977 NBC TV series. Hudson portrayed Police Commissioner Stewart 'Mac' McMillan. In 1976, the series title was shortened to McMillan

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Watch Rock Hudson's 1951 noir thriller The Fat Man
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