Review: Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star

Studio Publicity Still

I HAVE always been more of a Montgomery Clift fan. His dark, brooding complexity, good looks, and acting chops just do it for me. That said, the life of Tab Hunter (1931-2018) and his Hollywood-manufactured “All-American Boy-Next-Door” schtick fascinates me still. While I enjoyed Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller, I acknowledge it is a polarizing autobiography for many readers. Some of Hunter’s language and comments about queer people in his past are quite problematic. Hunter’s position later in life as a partnered, openly gay man practicing Catholicism can also be confusing.

In the book, Hunter claims he completely accepts himself as a gay man. Still, I feel he may have unresolved subconscious issues with his homosexuality or perhaps his perception of masculinity to sexual identity. I do understand and empathize. His formative experiences as a gay man occurred at a time when homosexuality was criminalized, and the word “gay” didn’t exist, let alone the open, diverse queer culture of today. I see Hunter as a complex man, forged in his identity partly by several decades of complicated, discordant opinions and beliefs on sexual behaviour and orientation and the Hollywood “don’t ask, don’t tell” machine. Though still closeted for much of his Hollywood career, homophobia and fear of being outed (I’m looking at you, Confidential magazine!) did not stop him from forming intimate relationships with men beyond just bedroom antics. It shows his courage and strength of character.

Anthony Perkins and Tab Hunter

While there is some dish in the book about the famous men in his life, like Tony Perkins, and his leading ladies, such as Natalie Wood, Hunter is not overly revealing. This conscious “holding back” throughout the book doesn’t bother me; it’s his story to tell in the way he wants to. Though his up-and-down career as a “Matinee Idol” is riveting, I enjoyed the glimpses into his life outside Hollywood just as much. His love of horses and riding, his writing endeavours, and his friendships–his chosen family–are things Hunter does not shy away from speaking about passionately.

Overall, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star is a captivating chronicle of a (one-time closeted) gay man and actor caught between the old dying studio system and the emerging mainstream movie and independent film markets of the 1970s/1980s. Praised more often for his looks than his acting ability, Tab Hunter quickly understood Hollywood’s superficiality. Eventually, time, perseverance, and self-acceptance brought him to a life of love and a place outside Hollywood to call home.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *