Friday, December 23, 2005

Book: Tab Hunter Confidential, by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller (2005)

In 2003, Rosemarie and I spent an afternoon listening to Eddie Muller hold forth on the glories of film noir. At the end of the presentation he hinted that his next book would be a collaboration with a Hollywood star. “One with a life worth hearing about, for once.”

He wasn’t kidding. Tab Hunter rose to overnight stardom at the end of the studio era. For the most part, he was cast as a heartthrob for teenage girls – a difficult image for a gay man to live up to. Now Hunter tells all about his personal and professional life with bracing candor.

The book is written with tabloid zing, only fitting for an actor who was regular fodder in gossip pages. Credit for that should probably go to Eddie; I don’t think Tab Hunter would refer to “a 1941 Ford coupe that smoked like Oscar Levant.”

Hunter offers an unsparing look at the working life of an actor. His perspective is certainly unique. He went from having hit records to costarring with Soupy Sales and Judy the Chimp in Birds Do It in only a decade. He did his time in dinner theater, then blazed the trail to career revival through independent film by appearing in John Waters’ POLYESTER.

He feels he never got a fair shake from critics, and he may be right. Consider, for instance, the 1959 Sidney Lumet drama That Kind of Woman. Hunter calls it “a gem, still my favorite of all the films I’ve made.” Here’s what the Leonard Maltin guide says:

excellent performances from all but Hunter, and even he’s better than usual.

Now that’s simply uncalled for.

After reading the book I sought out Gunman’s Walk, another film Hunter is fond of. It’s a sorely underrated western from veteran hands Phil Karlson and Frank Nugent. Hunter’s work as the hot-tempered son of successful rancher Van Heflin is rock-solid. Plus it features TATTLETALES host Bert Convy as an Indian.

Miscellaneous: Link

The New York Times visits St. Malachy’s church, also known as the Actors’ Chapel. Rosemarie and I stopped by there on our walking tour of Dorothy Parker’s New York.