Tab Hunter is one of those movie star names we all kind of vaguely know, but despite something like 75 film and television credits under his belt and appearances onscreen with some of the biggest names in film history, he has mostly faded into the land of Tinsel Town obscurity. A clean-cut teen heartthrob who rose to prominence in the '50s and '60s, when movie studios practically ran Hollywood, Hunter was once the biggest contract star in the Warner Bros. sky but ultimately fell victim to the age-old tale of a fickle industry constantly focused on the next big thing.
Of course, it didn't help that Hunter was gay in an era when such a sexual identity wasn't just met with abject hate—it was illegal. Director Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Divine) explores these trials and tribulations with Tab Hunter Confidential, a new doc that manages to not only present an in-depth look at a decades-long career, it also provides a scathing indictment of Hollywood's heartlessness and society's sick obsession with fame and the famous. Through deeply candid interviews with Hunter himself, the stars of his heyday and today's actors and directors, the film reminds us that stardom is actually rather lonely, and far too often we dehumanize the very actors we claim to adore.
We observe Hunter’s journey from no-name B-movie actor to America’s sweetheart; from household name to almost-forgotten dinner theater actor and his unexpected resurrection as Todd Tomorrow in John Waters’ 1981 cult hit Polyester. We experience the hardships of family and loss and the stark truths of the biz, but through it all we see the portrait of a man who went through the ringer and held onto his good humor and faith. It’s always fun to get an intimate look into the inner workings of the movie industry, and though it hath the power to fuel dreams, a reminder that it can also be cruel certainly goes a long way in holding up a mirror to our own issues with schadenfreude.
Tab Hunter Confidential
Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz