Anybody who is a fan of history can tell you that the 60s was a time of great change. The Beatles were shaking up music, the Vietnam War was heightening the counterculture movement, and movies were having to adapt to the times. The next handful of films that Hudson appeared in found it hard to gain any footing in the theaters.
A rom-com like “Strange Bedfellows” followed a tried-and-true script that audiences found boring, and even “Blindfold,” with espionage overtones, didn’t do much to surprise viewers. The one bright spot in this period was “Seconds,” a psychological horror, science-fiction film. It was ignored during its release, but recently it’s become known as a cult film with several prescient messages for the modern viewer. Still, it didn’t earn very much at the box office, and that’s what matters.
Lending His Voice
1963 was another year of fewer projects. There were two to feature Hudson during this year, with the first being the documentary “Marilyn.” The legendary actress and cultural icon had passed the year before, and Hollywood was quick to put out something that capitalized on a renewed public interest.
Hudson, while not appearing in the documentary itself, lent his voice as a narrator for the project. The other project for Hudson was a traditional film called “A Gathering of Eagles,” which was neither a critical darling nor a big box-office draw. The film was sympathetic to the military and the use of nuclear weapons, and shortly thereafter a number of films (including “Dr. Strangelove”) would arrive that were far more unsympathetic and would be much better received.
It’s Always a Good Day With You, Darling
1964 had another pair of projects for the Rock, including pairing up again with Doris Day. This time it was in the romantic comedy “Send Me No Flowers,” which had Hudson as a hypochondriac who is convinced he’s dying. What follows are a whole lot of misunderstandings as he tries to hide it from his wife, find her a husband to take his place that will treat her right, and more.
It was the last of three times Hudson and Day would work together, and while plenty of people sat in the theaters, it received mixed critical reviews. Once again, Doris Day won Top Female Comedy Performance from the Laurel Awards, while Hudson was only nominated for Top Male Comedy Performance. Always a bridesmaid, right Hudson?
On the Decline
Hudson was still a big star. In 1965, he was voted as the eleventh most popular star in the country, but he would never rise so high again. The movies he had been in – minus the films with Doris Day – had mostly been critical and commercial flops. Hudson was never the kind of guy to win Oscars, but he was always able to reliably get butts in seats, until this period.
His 1967 film “Tobruk” made around two million dollars against a budget of six million. It was nominated for a Best Visual Effects Oscar, but that’s the most it can claim as far as accolades go. 1968 gave us “A Fine Pair,” an Italian crime-comedy film that paired Hudson back up with Claudia Cardinale, one of Italy’s best-known actresses, but it ended up being forgettable.
The Big Secret
Let’s return to the hidden life of Rock Hudson. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really all that hidden – people in the Hollywood industry were aware of his proclivities as far back as 1955 when he was just becoming a big name. In fact, it was such an open secret during the time that the “Confidential” magazine, a tabloid rag about the stars and the terrible things they get up to, threatened to out Hudson if the magazine wasn’t paid off.
In order to protect one of his biggest stars from a career-destroying revelation, Hudson’s agent Willson offered up two smaller stars, giving them stories about Rory Calhoun’s time in prison and the arrest of Tab Hunter at a party in 1950. Apparently, this was enough to call the mag off.