Handsome actor Tab Hunter was born Arthur Andrew Kelm (later changed to Gelien) on July 11, 1931, in New York City. In 1934, Hunter's mother divorced his abusive father, and his mother moved Hunter and his older brother to California, finally settling in Los Angeles. In 1946, at the age of 15, he joined the Coast Guard, lying about his age in order to be admitted. It was during this time that Hunter was bitten by the acting bug, which he did in part to overcome shyness. His 6' 1", 180-pound frame plus his good looks opened doors in Hollywood, and he was discovered by talent agent Henry Willson, who renamed him 'Tab Hunter.' Hunter made his first film appearance at the age of 19 in The Lawless (1950; with Macdonald Carey and Gail Russell).

Tab Hunter and John BromfieldTab Hunter and Roddy McDowallTab HunterTab Hunter and James Dean

LEFT: With John Bromfield. CENTER A: With Roddy McDowall. CENTER B: Beefcake shot. RIGHT: Tab Hunter was chosen over James Dean for the role of Danny Forrester in Battle Cry. Both actors were under contract with Warner Bros.

The 1952 release Island of Desire proved to be Hunter's big break, and he was soon on his way to stardom. He made a few pictures between 1952 and 1954, before signing with Warner Bros., including Return to Treasure Island. With his Warner Bros. contract, Tab Hunter was one of the last actors who was a product of the studio system. His first film for the studio was Track of the Cat (1954; with Robert Mitchum and William Hopper). With the release of Battle Cry (1955; with Van Heflin and Dorothy Malone), Hunter established himself as a major box-office attraction.

During his tenure at Warner Bros., Hunter embarked on a successful singing career, first recording for the Dot label. He scored a top ten hit with Young Love in 1957. Later, Hunter recorded for Warner Bros. when the studio established a record label.

Tab Hunter

Hunter's album Young Love

In the 1950s and 1960s, many Warner Bros. actors had difficultly with the studio's rigid contract (such as Clint Walker and James Garner), and Tab Hunter was no exception. Therefore, in the late 1950s, Hunter bought his contract back from Warners and struck out on his own. In 1960, Hunter starred in the NBC situation comedy The Tab Hunter Show, in which Hunter portrayed a cartoonist. Unfortunately, The Tab Hunter Show was canceled at the end of the 1960-1961 season. Without a major studio behind him, Hunter's film career began to slide, so he concentrated on Broadway instead, doing fewer and smaller films and quite a bit of television.

the films of tab hunter

Island of Desire (1952)

Linda Darnell and Tab Hunter

Hunter is stranded on a desert island with Linda Darnell in the romance Island of Desire

Return to Treasure Island (1954)

Tab Hunter and Dawn AddamsTab Hunter and Dawn Addams

Images from Return to Treasure Island with Dawn Addams

The Girl He Left Behind (1956)

Tab HunterNatalie Wood and Tab HunterTab Hunter

Images from The Girl He Left Behind. The center photo includes Natalie Wood

Lafayette Escadrille (1958)

William Wellman Jr., Tab Hunter, Jody McCrea, and David Janssen

Promotional photo from Lafayette Escadrille (1958) with William Wellman Jr., Jody McCrea, and David Janssen

The Tab Hunter Show (NBC, 1960-1961)

Tab Hunter and Nita TalbotTab Hunter and Nita Talbot

Hunter rehearses with glamorous actress Nita Talbot for an October 1960 episode of The Tab Hunter Show

The Golden Arrow (1962)

Tab HunterTab Hunter

Hunter starred in the Italian-made swashbuckler The Golden Arrow

Operation Bikini (1963)

Tab Hunter and Frankie Avalon

Hunter and Frankie Avalon in the American International war drama Operation Bikini

Ride the Wild Surf (1964)

Tab Hunter and Susan HartTab Hunter

LEFT: With Susan Hart in the beach movie Ride the Wild Surf. RIGHT: Promotional photo

The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967)

Tab Hunter

Filmed in Spain, The Fickle Finger of Fate was another of Hunter's comedies

Polyester (1981)

Tab Hunter and Divine

With Divine in the hilarious John Waters comedy Polyester

Grease 2 (1982)

Tab Hunter, Connie Stevens, Dody Goodman, Sid Caesar, and Eve Arden

From the big-budget Paramount musical Grease 2 with Connie Stevens, Dody Goodman, Sid Caesar, and Eve Arden

Lust in the Dust (1985)

Tab Hunter and Divine

From Paul Bartel's Lust in the Dust with Divine and Lainie Kazan

later years

Although Tab Hunter was groomed as the all-American boy next door, he was at his best when playing villains. He acted in many dramas yet turned in a number of fine comedic performances. In addition to films and television, Hunter also acted in a number of Broadway plays and gave many dinner theater performances. In 1980, he accepted a role in John Waters' Polyester, portraying lothario Todd Tomorrow opposite Divine. Hunter and Divine teamed up again for the 1985 release Lust in the Dust, directed by Paul Bartel and produced by Hunter.

Hunter published his memoirs, titled Tab Hunter Confidential, in 2005. Hunter and his partner, producer Allan Glaser, were together for about 40 years and produced a couple of documentaries, one on actor Divine and another on Hunter himself. Sadly, Tab Hunter passed away on July 8, 2018, of natural causes. He was just a few days shy of his 87th birthday.

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Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1996) Hunter is featured in vintage film clips
Dark Horse (1992) with Ed Begley Jr., Mimi Rogers, Samantha Eggar, and Tisha Sterling
Cameron's Closet (1989) with Leigh McCloskey
Grotesque (1988) with Linda Blair
Out of the Dark (1988) with Karen Black
Lust in the Dust (1985) with Divine, Lainie Kazan, Woody Strode, and Cesar Romero
Grease 2 (1982) with Connie Stevens, Sid Caesar, Lorna Luft, Maxwell Caulfield, Dody Goodman, and Eve Arden
Pandemonium (1982) with Tom Smothers, Debralee Scott, Eve Arden, and Kaye Ballard
Polyester (1981) with Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, and Stiv Bators
The Kid from Left Field (1979) with Gary Coleman
Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold (1978) with Fabian and Don Stroud
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)
Timber Tramps (1973) with Claude Akins and Eve Brent
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) with Paul Newman, Anthony Perkins, Ned Beatty, Jacqueline Bisset, Ava Gardner, Victoria Principal, Bill McKinney, Steve Kanaly, John Huston, Stacy Keach, Roddy McDowall, and Michael Sarrazin
Sweet Kill (1972) with Roberta Collins
Hacksaw (1971)
San Francisco International (1970) with Pernell Roberts, Clu Gulager, Van Johnson, and David Hartman; once aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000
The Legion of No Return (1969) with Red Ross and Daniele Vargas
The Last Chance (1968) with Daniela Bianchi and Michael Rennie
Shotgun (1968) with Erika Blanc
The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967)
Hostile Guns (1967) with George Montgomery, Yvonne De Carlo, John Russell, Brian Donlevy, and Richard Arlen
Birds Do It (1966) with Soupy Sales and Beverly Adams
City Under the Sea (1965) with Vincent Price and Susan Hart
The Loved One (1965) with Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, James Coburn, John Gielgud, Dana Andrews, Barbara Nichols, and Roxanne Arlen
Ride the Wild Surf (1964) with Fabian, Shelley Fabares, Barbara Eden, Peter Brown, and Susan Hart
Troubled Waters (1964)
Operation Bikini (1963) with Jody McCrea, Frankie Avalon, and Scott Brady
The Golden Arrow (1962) with Rossana Podesta
The Pleasure of His Company (1961) with Fred Astaire and Debbie Reynolds
They Came to Cordura (1959) with Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth
Meet Me in St. Louis (1959) with Jeanne Crain, Patty Duke, and Myrna Loy
That Kind of Woman (1959) with Sophia Loren, George Sanders, and Barbara Nichols
Gunman's Walk (1958) with Van Heflin and James Darren
Lafayette Escadrille (1958) with Brett Halsey, Jody McCrea, David Janssen, Paul Fix, Will Hutchins, Clint Eastwood, Tom Laughlin, Raymond Bailey, William Wellman Jr.
Damn Yankees! (1958) with Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston
The Burning Hills (1956) with Natalie Wood
The Girl He Left Behind (1956) with Natalie Wood, Jim Backus, James Garner, and David Janssen
The Sea Chase (1955) with John Wayne and Lana Turner
Battle Cry (1955) with Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, William Campbell, John Lupton, and Anne Francis
Track of the Cat (1954) with Robert Mitchum and William Hopper
Return to Treasure Island (1954) with Dawn Addams
The Steel Lady (1953) with Rod Cameron
Gun Belt (1953) with George Montgomery
Island of Desire (1952) with Linda Darnell
The Lawless (1950) with Macdonald Carey, Gail Russell, and Martha Hyer

Forever Fernwood, 1977-1978 TV series. Hunter portrayed George Schumway
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman 1976-1978 TV series. Hunter portrayed George Shumway
The Tab Hunter Show, 1960-1961 NBC TV series. Hunter portrayed cartoonist Paul Morgan in 39 episodes.

Match Game, five appearances, orginally aired September 1978
Burke's Law, episode Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?, originally aired March 13, 1964
Combat!, episode The Celebrity, originally aired November 27, 1962
Saints and Sinners, episode Three Columns of Anger, originally aired October 22, 1962
General Electric Theater, episode Disaster, originally aired November 1, 1959
Playhouse 90, episode Portrait of a Murderer, originally aired February 27, 1958
Hallmark Hall of Fame, episode Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, originally aired February 9, 1958
Conflict, episode The People Against McQuade, originally aired November 13, 1956
Playhouse 90, episode Forbidden Area, originally aired October 4, 1956
Climax!, episode Fear Strikes Out, originally aired August 18, 1955
Lux Video Theatre, episode Lightning Strikes Twice, originally aired June 9, 1955
The Ford Television Theatre, episode While We're Young, originally aired April 28, 1955

tab hunter links

The Official Tab Hunter Website
Visit Tab Hunter's official web site, with biographical information, a filmography, and information on Hunter's latest project, Hollywood on Horses. A terrific selection of photos is offered, and each can be autographed.
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This page premiered August 15, 2000.
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