It’s true – the movie-going public was starting to sit up and take notice of Rock Hudson. In 1952, he would finally get his chance to really wow them. After the movies “Bend of the River,” another western starring Jimmy Stewart, and “Here Come the Nelsons,” which had Hudson as fifth after the Nelsons, who played themselves, he was the male lead in the historical adventure film “Scarlet Angel.”
He played alongside the already-a-star Yvonne De Carlo. The success of the film, and Hudson as a lead, led to more big roles in the same year, including the male lead in “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” and one of a pair of male leads in “Horizons West.”
His Early Movies
Hudson had a full five movies in 1950: in “One Way Street,” and “Shakedown,” he was uncredited as a truck driver and a valet respectively (Wikipedia even handily points out that he appears 59 minutes into “Shakedown”). He also played a character named Johnny “Scat” Mitchell in “Peggy,” and was Young Bull and Captain Ras in the aforementioned “Winchester ‘73” and “The Desert Hawk” respectively.
Of these movies, “Winchester ‘73” is no doubt the most successful, having been a vehicle for none other than the great Jimmy Stewart. It helped to redefine the Western genre, beginning to turn it into the incredible money maker it would continue to be for several decades. The movie also helped to give Stewart a chance to show off a different side of himself.
Another Year and Five More Movies
Having proved he at least had a place in the movies, Hudson found his next year to be even more successful as far as his roles go. No more uncredited roles for this guy, no sir! First up was the film “Tomahawk,” one of the first to empathize with the views of Native Americans, incredibly.
Hudson played Cpl. Burt Hanna and was listed as the fifth name in the credits, though that might just be because he would eventually become famous. Following that was “Air Cadet,” and then “The Fat Man,” which had Hudson ranked third. Next was “Bright Victory” in which he plays a character named “Dudek,” and then he was in “Iron Man” (it’s about a boxer) in which his appearance attracted a lot of publicity.
Acting Alongside an Angel
In “Scarlet Angel,” Hudson plays Frank Truscott, a sea captain who watches saloon girl Roxy (played by Yvonne de Carlo) steal a customer’s wallet. What follows is a romp through 1865 New Orleans, which has Roxy pretending to be a woman who had died, playing suitors off of each other, and eventually falling for the charming Captain Truscott.
Though their relationship is anything but normal. While critics labeled the film respectable if not astounding, audiences ate it up, especially the dashing Rock Hudson in his first leading role. It made 1.5 million at the box office which was, yes, quite a bit back then, at least for a movie. It’s more like 17 million dollars in today’s money.
Like the Year Before but Better
1953 was much like 1952, except Hudson had more movies, and he starred in every single one of them. Yes, that’s right, six movies were released that had Hudson as the top name – they were running the poor man ragged. It began with the biographical crime western “The Lawless Breed,” about the life of outlaw John Wesley Hardin. After that was another western, “Seminole,” which depicts the Second Seminole War.
Then it was “Sea Devils,” a historical adventure film, which reunited Hudson and De Carlo, followed by “The Golden Blade,” a mash-up of “One Thousand and One Nights” and the myth of King Arthur. The last two were both westerns, but the first, “Gun Fury,” used the burgeoning and sure-to-survive technology of 3-D. The second was more simple, called “Back to God’s Country.”