Tab Hunter Confidential
Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz
In the 1950s, Tab Hunter was number one at the box office and number one on the music charts and was Hollywood’s most sought-after young star. Natalie Wood, Debbie Reynolds and Sophia Loren were just a few of the actresses he was romantically linked to. He was America’s Boy Next Door and nothing, it seemed, could damage Tab Hunter’s career. Nothing, that is, except for the fact that Tab Hunter was secretly gay. Now, the secret is out.
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★★★★½ review by Armando Maggi on Letterboxd
Tab Hunter, the 'heart-throb,' all-American beauty of the fifties, speaks about his (to a certain extent) secret homosexuality, the creation of his famous persona, and self-acceptance when he finally left the movie industry and withdrew from the limelight with his lover, the producer of this documentary, who is thirty years younger.
In hindsight, it is immensely ironic that this object of so many girls' (and guys') fantasy and the symbol of the perfect American male beauty (his perfect facial features, beautiful blond hair, his open and childlike smile), which led his admirers to give him also all the cliched qualities of the American honesty and 'goodness,' was a homosexual who ended up working with John Waters in 'Polyester' and having a scorching scene with the drag queen Divine.
It is amazing to see that the man called Tab Hunter is much more real and even more attractive now, at the venerable age of eighty something. There's something classy and even noble in this old man who loves to ride horses and avoids watching his old films when they are shown on TV. His movie career belongs to another person.
Of course it's not the first time (and won't be the last either) that we watch an old actor doing his final coming out on camera, but I guess Tab Hunter's movie career coincided with such a crucial moment of American history and culture that his persona, which the studios created and he tried so hard to preserve (his infinite 'dates' with famous actresses; his fake flirting with his female admirers; the innumerable photos on magazines showing off his handsome smile), that his artistic success and demise acquire a special value.
There was something missing in his perfect young handsomeness, something impossible to pin down, but "Tab Hunter" (what a comical name if you think about it now) was unquestionably beautiful and yet not very 'magical.' He embodied a perfect type and in this perfection also lies his major flaw. He was not a great actor, I am sorry to say.
His love story with Anthony Perkins is the most poignant part of this documentary. Perkins, who hid his homosexuality, married, had children, and died of Aids.
Two things will stay with me: Tab Hunter's relationship with his mentally ill German mother, who went through an intensive electroshock therapy; and his return to fame when he became a parody of himself, working with John Waters and Divine.
I perceive a certain magic, real magic in the persistence of this old man, who shed the skin of a false, misleading fantasy in order to acquire the magic of his real identity. I honestly felt I was given the chance to look at something who was at once real and magical, exactly because the first part of the film had insisted on his problematic career as the perfect American idol.
★★★★ review by <Todd> on Letterboxd
I am glad he is happy with his life now. This film provides the fascinating biography of a secretly gay male heart-throb in 50s and 60s cinema.
★★★★ review by Zā on Letterboxd
The passing of Tab made me pretty sad today so I figured I'd watch the documentary that made me interested in his career and his story. I really wanted to watch Polyester, but that's like the only John Waters film I don't own.
Once I get done with my current book, I'm going to read Tab's book of the same name.
RIP Tab, a spectacular star in this world.
★★★★★ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd
Of course, I'm old enough to remember the Tab Hunter era, the supernally handsome (although not particularly my type) no-talent actor/singer dreamboat and movie star. I first encountered him in Battle Cry when it was playing a 2nd run double bill with one of my all-time favorite films, East of Eden; and the unfavorable comparison of Hunter to James Dean was telling. I ignored most of the rest of his career...and when I was old enough that it made an impact, I noticed with some interest when he was "outed" in the scandal mags and whispered about as gay.
Now in his mid-80s, Hunter seems to be comfortable telling with no holds barred the entire story of his life and career: his love affairs, his relationships, the things this man kept so private until recently. Hunter, still handsome and as charismatic as ever, candidly narrates the film on camera. Director Jeffrey Schwartz and producer Alan Glaser (Hunter's long-time life partner) have collected a literal treasure trove of clips, memorabilia and interviews, and cleverly presented them on film with excellent graphics and brilliant editing. Make no mistake, this is an enormously entertaining documentary; but it is also an almost unprecedented history of the cost of the Hollywood closet told by one of the few participating survivors of the studio era. As such it is also an important film, disclosing first hand the hidden secrets of mid-20th century Hollywood, and incidentally disclosing that the real Tab Hunter is a nice, personable, shy guy who just happened to be good looking and a gay icon despite himself.
★★★★ review by Christian Alec on Letterboxd
Queer Challenge 2018: Week 2- Queer Essentials Part II
Tab Hunter Confidential is a wonderful and personal account over Hunter's own life told from his perspective. I knew only about his more private life before this and I'm interested to watch some of his films now to explore more of who he is. It was great getting to know about his fears growing up and his new life of being private and committed to his passions.
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