A movie review of “Tab Hunter Confidential”: Tab Hunter’s career is the subject of Jeffrey Schwarz’s excellent documentary about closeted gay actors in the 1950s. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
The affair of Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins — which reached its peak in the late 1950s, when they were closeted box-office stars competing in the same market — has been off-screen until recently.
But Hunter revealed the relationship in a tell-all 2006 autobiography that eventually served as the basis for an excellent new documentary, “Tab Hunter Confidential,” that contends they broke up while vying for the same role in “Fear Strikes Out.”
Hunter starred in the television version of “Fear Strikes Out,” but Perkins got the movie, which led Alfred Hitchcock to cast Perkins as Norman Bates in “Psycho.” Hunter got some of his best reviews for the TV production, but his career suffered. While Perkins had his biggest hit with “Psycho,” the success typecast him.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Tab Hunter Confidential,’ a documentary directed by Jeffrey Schwarz. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
Jeffrey Schwarz — who directed “I Am Divine,” the 2013 documentary about Hunter’s “Polyester” co-star, Divine — was a natural to direct “Tab Hunter Confidential.” Using generous footage from Hunter’s hits, “Battle Cry” and “Damn Yankees,” and interviews with Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, John Waters and Hunter himself (who is 84), Schwarz deftly demonstrates how frightened 1950s Hollywood was of the sexuality of its stars.
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Today it seems almost comical that Hunter, Rock Hudson and others would pretend to go on opposite-sex dates arranged — if not encouraged — by the studios. Schwarz deftly uses the interviews to demonstrate the very real consequences of not doing so.