Tab Hunter

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Tab Hunter
Arthur Andrew Gelien [1] [2]

(1931-07-11)July 11, 1931
DiedJuly 8, 2018(2018-07-08) (aged 86)
Other namesArthur Gelien
  • Actor
  • singer
  • film producer
  • writer
Years active1950–2015
Spouse(s) Allan Glaser (partner since ca. 1983) [3]

Tab Hunter (born Arthur Andrew Gelien; July 11, 1931 – July 8, 2018) was an American actor, singer, film producer and author. He appeared in over 40 films and was a well-known Hollywood star and heartthrob of the 1950s and 1960s, known for his blond, clean-cut good looks.


Early life

Hunter was born in Manhattan, New York City, [1] the son of Gertrude (née  Gelien) and Charles Kelm. His father was Jewish and his mother was a German Catholic immigrant, from Hamburg. [4] He had an older brother, Walter. Hunter's father was reportedly abusive, and within a few years of his birth, his parents divorced. He was raised in California living with his mother, brother, and maternal grandparents, John Henry and Ida (née Sonnenfleth) Gelien, living in San Francisco, Long Beach and Los Angeles. [4] His mother re-assumed her maiden surname, Gelien, and changed her sons’ surnames, as well. As a teenager, Arthur Gelien, as he was then known, was a figure skater, competing in both singles and pairs. [5] Hunter was sent to Catholic school by his religious mother. [6]

Judaism The ethnic religion of the Jewish people

Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. It encompasses the religion, philosophy, and culture of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

Hamburg City in Germany

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million, after the capital Berlin.

He joined the United States Coast Guard at age 15, lying about his age to enlist. While in the Coast Guard, he gained the nickname "Hollywood" for his penchant for watching movies rather than going to bars while on liberty. [7] When his superiors discovered his true age, they discharged him. He met actor Dick Clayton socially; Clayton suggested that Hunter become an actor. [8]

United States Coast Guard Coastal defense and law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country's seven uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set. It operates under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Navy by the U.S. President at any time, or by the U.S. Congress during times of war. This has happened twice: in 1917, during World War I, and in 1941, during World War II.

Hollywood Neighborhood of Los Angeles in California, United States

Hollywood is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California, notable as the home of the U.S. film industry, including several of its historic studios. Its name has come to be a shorthand reference for the industry and the people associated with it.

Richard Clayton (actor) American actor and agent

Richard Clayton was an American actor who became a talent agent. He represented such high-profile talent as Jane Fonda, James Dean and Burt Reynolds during his career as an agent.



Clayton introduced Hunter to agent Henry Willson, who specialized in representing male stars such as Robert Wagner and Rock Hudson. It was Willson who named him "Tab Hunter". [9]

Henry Leroy Willson was an American Hollywood talent agent who played a large role in developing the beefcake craze of the 1950s. He was known for his stable of young, attractive clients, including Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Chad Everett, Robert Wagner, Nick Adams, Guy Madison, Troy Donahue, Mike Connors, Rory Calhoun, John Saxon, Yale Summers, Clint Walker, Doug McClure, Dack Rambo, Ty Hardin, and John Derek. He noticed Rhonda Fleming as she was walking to Beverly Hills High School, brought her to the attention of David O. Selznick, and helped groom her for stardom. He was also instrumental in advancing Lana Turner's career.

Robert Wagner American actor

Robert John Wagner Jr. is an American actor of stage, screen, and television, best known for starring in the television shows It Takes a Thief (1968–70), Switch (1975–78), and Hart to Hart (1979–84). He also had a recurring role as Teddy Leopold on the TV sitcom Two and a Half Men and has a recurring role as Anthony DiNozzo Sr. on the police procedural NCIS.

Rock Hudson American actor

Rock Hudson was an American actor, generally known for his turns as a leading man during the 1950s and 1960s. Viewed as a prominent "heartthrob" of the Hollywood Golden Age, he achieved stardom with roles in films such as Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955) and Giant (1956), for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and found continued success with a string of romantic comedies co-starring Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). After appearing in films including Seconds (1966), Tobruk (1967) and Ice Station Zebra (1968) during the late 1960s, Hudson began a second career in television through the 1970s and 1980s, starring in the popular mystery series McMillan & Wife and the primetime ABC soap opera Dynasty.

Hunter's first film role was a minor part in a film noir, The Lawless (1950). He was friends with character actor Paul Guilfoyle, who suggested him to director Stuart Heisler, who was looking for an unknown to play the lead in Island of Desire (1952) opposite Linda Darnell. The film, essentially a two-hander between Hunter and Darnell, was a hit. [10]

Film noir Cinematic term mainly referring to stylish early 1920s–late 1950s Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those emphasizing cynical attitudes and sexual motivations

Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1920s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key, black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.

<i>The Lawless</i> 1950 film by Joseph Losey

The Lawless is a 1950 American film noir directed by Joseph Losey and features Macdonald Carey, Gail Russell and Johnny Sands.

Paul Guilfoyle (actor, born 1902) American actor born in 1902

Paul Guilfoyle was an American stage, film and television actor. Later in his career, he also directed films and television episodes.

Hunter supported George Montgomery in Gun Belt (1953), a Western produced by Edward Small. Small used him again for a war film, The Steel Lady (1953) supporting Rod Cameron, and as the lead in an adventure tale, Return to Treasure Island (1954). He began acting on stage, appearing in a production of Our Town . [11]

George Montgomery (actor) American actor and artist

George Montgomery was an American actor, painter, sculptor, furniture craftsman, and stuntman who is best remembered as an actor in Western film and television.

Gun Belt is a 1953 American Technicolor Western film directed by Ray Nazarro and starring George Montgomery and Tab Hunter.

Edward Small was a film producer from the late 1920s through 1970, who was enormously prolific over a 50-year career. He is best known for the movies The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), The Corsican Brothers (1941), Brewster's Millions (1945), Raw Deal (1948), Black Magic (1949), Witness for the Prosecution (1957) and Solomon and Sheba (1959).

He was then offered, and accepted, a contract at Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. American entertainment company

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., commonly referred to as Warner Bros. and abbreviated as WB, is an American entertainment company headquartered in Burbank, California and a subsidiary of AT&T's WarnerMedia. Founded in 1923, it has operations in film, television and video games and is one of the "Big Five" major American film studios, as well as a member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Warner Bros.

Hunter with Natalie Wood at the 28th Academy Awards in 1956. Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter arriving at the 28th Academy Awards 1956 cropped.jpg
Hunter with Natalie Wood at the 28th Academy Awards in 1956.

One of Hunter's first films for Warners was The Sea Chase (1955), supporting John Wayne and Lana Turner. It was a big hit, but Hunter's part was relatively small. Rushes were seen by William A. Wellman, who cast Hunter to play the younger brother of Robert Mitchum in Track of the Cat (1955). It was a solid hit and Hunter began to get more notice.

His breakthrough role came when he was cast as the young Marine Danny in 1955's World War II drama Battle Cry . His character has an affair with an older woman, but ends up marrying the girl next door. It was based on a bestseller by Leon Uris and became Warner Bros.' largest grossing film of that year, cementing Hunter's position as one of Hollywood's top young romantic leads. He was in the third (Battle Cry) and tenth (The Sea Chase) most popular films of the year. [12]

In September 1955, the tabloid magazine Confidential reported that Hunter had been arrested for disorderly conduct in 1950. The innuendo-laced article, and a second one focusing on Rory Calhoun's prison record, were the result of a deal Henry Willson had brokered with the scandal rag in exchange for not revealing the sexual orientation of his more prominent client, Rock Hudson, to the public. [13] The report had no negative effect on Hunter's career. A few months later, he was named Most Promising New Personality in a nationwide poll sponsored by the Council of Motion Picture Organizations. [14] In 1956, he received 62,000 valentines. Hunter, James Dean and Natalie Wood were the last actors to be placed under an exclusive studio contract at Warner Bros. Warners decided to promote him to star status, teaming him with Natalie Wood in two films, a Western, The Burning Hills (1956), directed by Heisler, and The Girl He Left Behind (1956), a service comedy. These films also proved to be hits with audiences and Warners planned a third teaming of Hunter and Wood. Hunter rejected the third picture, thus ending Warners' attempt to make Hunter and Wood the William Powell and Myrna Loy of the 1950s. Hunter was Warner Bros.' most popular male star from 1955 until 1959.

Hunter received strong critical acclaim for a television performance he gave in the debut episode of Playhouse 90 ("Forbidden Area", 1956) written by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer. [15]

Music career

Hunter had a 1957 hit record with the song "Young Love," which was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks (seven weeks on the UK Chart) and became one of the larger hits of the Rock 'n' Roll era. [5] It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. [16]

He had another hit single, "Ninety-Nine Ways", which peaked at No. 11 in the United States and No. 5 in the United Kingdom. His success prompted Jack L. Warner to enforce the actor's contract with the Warner Bros. studio by banning Dot Records, the label for which Hunter had recorded the single (and which was owned by rival Paramount Pictures), from releasing a follow-up album he had recorded for them. He established Warner Bros. Records specifically for Hunter.

Hunter's acting career was also at its peak. William Wellman used him again in a war film, Lafayette Escadrille (1958). Columbia Pictures borrowed him for a Western, Gunman's Walk (1958), a film which Hunter considered his favorite role.

Hunter starred in the musical film Damn Yankees (1958), in which he played Joe Hardy of Washington, D.C.'s American League baseball club. The film had originally been a Broadway musical, but Hunter was the only one in the film version who had not appeared in the original cast. The show was based on the best-selling 1954 book The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop. Hunter later said the filming was hellish because director George Abbott was only interested in recreating the stage version word for word. He starred in the films, They Came to Cordura with Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth and That Kind of Woman (both 1959), with Sophia Loren.


Hunter's failure to win the role of Tony in the film adaptation of West Side Story (1961) prompted him to agree to star in a weekly television sitcom. The Tab Hunter Show had moderate ratings (due to being scheduled opposite The Ed Sullivan Show ) and lasted for only one season of 36 episodes. It was a hit in the United Kingdom, where it ranked as one of the most watched situation comedies of the year.

Hunter had a starring role as Debbie Reynolds's love interest in The Pleasure of His Company (1961). He played the lead in a swashbuckler shot in Italy, The Golden Arrow (1962) and was in a war movie for American International Pictures, Operation Bikini (1963).

In 1964, he starred on Broadway opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore .

Ride the Wild Surf (1964) was a surf film for Columbia, followed by a movie in Britain, Troubled Waters (1964). He stayed in England to make another picture for AIP, War Gods of the Deep (1965). Back in Hollywood he had a supporting role in The Loved One (1965) and Birds Do It (1966). He made a film with Richard Rush, The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967).

For a short time in the late 1960s, after several seasons of starring in summer stock and dinner theater in shows such as Bye Bye Birdie, The Tender Trap, Under the Yum Yum Tree, [17] and West Side Story with some of the New York cast, Hunter settled in the south of France, where he acted in Spaghetti Westerns, including Vengeance Is My Forgiveness (1968), The Last Chance (1968), and Bridge over the Elbe (1969). [18]


Hunter had the lead role in Sweet Kill (1973), the first movie from director Curtis Hanson. He won a co-starring role in the successful film The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) with Paul Newman. He had small roles in Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) and Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold (1978).


Hunter's career was revived in the 1980s [1] , when he starred opposite actor Divine in John Waters' Polyester (1981) and Paul Bartel's Lust in the Dust (1985). He played Mr. Stuart, the substitute teacher in Grease 2 (1982), who sang "Reproduction". Hunter had a major role in the 1988 horror film Cameron's Closet .

Later years

Hunter wrote the story for, and starred in, Dark Horse (1992), his last film.

An award-winning 2015 documentary about his life, Tab Hunter Confidential , was directed by Jeffrey Schwarz and produced by Hunter's husband Allan Glaser. [19] As of June 2018, a feature film about Hunter was in development at Paramount Pictures to be produced by Glaser, J. J. Abrams and Zachary Quinto. Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning writer Doug Wright is attached to create the screenplay. [20]

Personal life

Tab Hunter with Debbie Reynolds in January 2016 Tab and Debbie.jpg
Tab Hunter with Debbie Reynolds in January 2016

Hunter's autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star (2005, co-written with Eddie Muller), became a New York Times bestseller, [21] as did the paperback edition in 2007. The book was nominated for several awards. It re-entered The New York Times' bestseller list for a third time on June 28, 2015, upon the release of a documentary film based on the book.

In the book, Hunter acknowledged that he was gay, confirming rumors in circulation since the height of his fame. According to William L. Hamilton of The New York Times, detailed reports about Hunter's alleged romances with close friends Debbie Reynolds and Natalie Wood during his young adult years had strictly been the fodder of studio publicity departments. As Wood and Hunter embarked on a well-publicized but fictitious romance, insiders had developed their own headline for the item: "Natalie Wood and Tab Wouldn't". [3]

Regarding Hollywood's studio era, Hunter said, "[life] was difficult for me, because I was living two lives at that time. A private life of my own, which I never discussed, never talked about to anyone. And then my Hollywood life, which was just trying to learn my craft and succeed ..." The star emphasized that the word "'gay' ... wasn't even around in those days, and if anyone ever confronted me with it, I'd just kinda freak out. I was in total denial. I was just not comfortable in that Hollywood scene, other than the work process." [22] "There was a lot written about my sexuality, and the press was pretty darn cruel," the actor said, but what "moviegoers wanted to hold in their hearts were the boy-next-door marines, cowboys, and swoon-bait sweethearts I portrayed." [3]

Tab Hunter (right) with Anthony Perkins and Peter Potter on the TV show Juke Box Jury (1957) Juke Box Jury May 1957.jpg
Tab Hunter (right) with Anthony Perkins and Peter Potter on the TV show Juke Box Jury (1957)

Hunter had long-term relationships with actor Anthony Perkins and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson before settling down and marrying his partner / spouse of over 35 years, film producer Allan Glaser. [23] [1]

Hunter was raised in his mother's Catholic faith. Except for a period in his youth, Hunter was a practicing Catholic for the rest of his life. [18] [24] [25] Hunter was a Republican and supported the campaign of Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election. [26]

Hunter has a star for his contributions to the music industry on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6320 Hollywood Blvd. [27] In 2007, the Palm Springs Walk of Stars dedicated a Golden Palm Star to him. [28]


Three days before his 87th birthday, Hunter died after suffering cardiac arrest which arose from complications related to deep vein thrombosis. [29] According to Glaser, Hunter's death was "sudden and unexpected". [30]

Chart performance

YearTitleChart positions
1957"Young Love"11
"Red Sails In The Sunset"57
"Ninety-Nine Ways"115
"Don't Get Around Much Anymore"74
1958"Jealous Heart"62
1959"(I'll Be with You) In Apple Blossom Time"31
"There's No Fool Like A Young Fool"68

Selected filmography

Year [31] FilmCharacterNotes
1950 The Lawless Frank O'Brienalso released under the title The Dividing Line
1952 The Island of Desire Marine Corporal Michael J. "Chicken" Duganalso released under the title Saturday Island
1953 Gun Belt Chip Ringo
1953 The Steel Lady Bill Larsonalso released under the title Treasure of Kalifa
1954 Return to Treasure Island Clive Stone
1954 Track of the Cat Harold Bridges
1955 Battle Cry Danny Forrester
1955While We're YoungGig SpevvyEpisode of Ford Television Theatre , with Claudette Colbert
1955 Fear Strikes Out Jimmy Piersall2 episodes of Climax!
1955 The Sea Chase Cadet Wesser
1956The People Against McQuadeDonald McQuadeEpisode of Conflict "
1956 The Burning Hills Trace Jordan
1956 The Girl He Left Behind Andy L. Shaeffer
1956 Forbidden Area episode of Playhouse 90 directed by John Frankenheimer with Charlton Heston
1957Mask for the Devilepisode of Climax!
1958 Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates Hans BrinkerTV movie
1958 Portrait of a Murderer episode of Playhouse 90 directed by Arthur Penn
1958 Gunman's Walk Ed Hackett
1958 Lafayette Escadrille Thad Walker
1958 Damn Yankees Joe HardyAlso released under the title What Lola Wants in the UK
1959 They Came to Cordura Lt. William Fowler
1959 That Kind of Woman RedDirected by Sidney Lumet
1960–61 The Tab Hunter Show Paul MorganStar of regular series
1961 The Pleasure of His Company Roger Henderson
1961Summer on IceHimselfTV movie
1962 The Golden Arrow Hassan
1962Three Columns of Angerepisode of Saints and Sinners
1962The Celebrityepisode of Combat!
1963 Operation Bikini Lt. Morgan Hayes
1964 Ride the Wild Surf Steamer Lane
1964 Troubled Waters Alex Carswell
1965 City Under the Sea Ben Harrisreleased as War Gods of the Deep in US
1965 The Loved One Whispering Glades Tour Guide
1966 Birds Do It Lt. Porter
1967 The Fickle Finger of Fate JerryAKAS: El Dedo del Destino and The Cup of San Sebastian
1967 Hostile Guns Mike Reno
1968 Vengeance Is My Forgiveness Sheriff Durango
1968 The Last Chance Patrick Harris
1969 Bridge over the Elbe Richard
1970 The Virginian Cart Banner
1971HacksawTim AndrewsTV movie
1972 Treasure of St. Ignacio Bob Neal
1972 Sweet Kill Eddie Collins
1972 The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean Sam Dodd
1975 Timber Tramps Big Swede
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood David Hamilton
1978 Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold Elliot BenderTV movie
1978 Hawaii Five-O Episode: "Horoscope for Murder"Mel Burgess
1979 The Kid from Left Field Bill LorantTV movie
1981 Polyester Todd Tomorrow
1982 Pandemonium Blue Grange
1982 Grease 2 Mr. Stuart
1982And They're OffHenry Barclay
1982Natalie: A Very Special Tribute to a Very Special LadyHimselfMade-for-TV documentary
1985 Lust in the Dust Abel Wood
1988 Out of the Dark Driver
1988 Grotesque Rod
1988 Cameron's Closet Owen Lansing
1988James Stewart's Wonderful LifeHimselfMade-for-TV documentary
1992 Dark Horse Perkins
1995Wild Bill: Hollywood MaverickHimselfDocumentary
1996Ballyhoo: The Hollywood SideshowHimselfDocumentary
1998The Best of HollywoodHimself/Presenter/NarratorMade-for-TV documentary
2002Elvis ForeverHimselfMade-for-TV documentary about Elvis Presley
2003RitaHimselfMade-for-TV documentary about Rita Hayworth
2007The Brothers WarnerHimselfDocumentary
2008Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical TreasureHimselfMade-for-TV documentary
2008Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical HistoryHimselfMade-for-TV documentary
2013 I Am Divine HimselfDocumentary about regular co-star and drag queen Divine
2015 Tab Hunter Confidential HimselfDocumentary about Hunter's life as a matinee idol, based upon his book of the same name

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  14. Hunter 2005, pp. 116–118.
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  20. Feinberg, Scott; Kit, Borys (June 6, 2018). "Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins forbidden love drama in the works from J.J. Abrams, Zachary Quinto". Exclusive. The Hollywood Reporter.
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  26. "[no title cited]". Motion Picture and Television Magazine. Ideal Publishers. November 1952. p. 34.
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