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Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star

Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star

4.4 17
by Tab Hunter, Eddie Muller (With)

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Welcome to Hollywood, circa 1950, the end of the Golden Age. A remarkably handsome young boy, still a teenager, gets "discovered by a big-time movie agent. Because when he takes his shirt off young hearts beat faster, because he is the picture of innocence and trust and need, he will become a star. It seems almost preordained. The open smile says, "You will love me


Welcome to Hollywood, circa 1950, the end of the Golden Age. A remarkably handsome young boy, still a teenager, gets "discovered by a big-time movie agent. Because when he takes his shirt off young hearts beat faster, because he is the picture of innocence and trust and need, he will become a star. It seems almost preordained. The open smile says, "You will love me," and soon the whole world does.

The young boy's name was Tab Hunter—a made-up name, of course, a Hollywood name—and it was his time. Stardom didn't come overnight, although it seemed that way. In fact, the fame came first, when his face adorned hundreds of magazine covers; the movies, the studio contract, the name in lights—all that came later. For Tab Hunter was a true product of Hollywood, a movie star created from a stable boy, a shy kid made even more so by the way his schoolmates—both girls and boys—reacted to his beauty, by a mother who provided for him in every way except emotionally, and by a secret that both tormented him and propelled him forward.

In Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Hunter speaks out for the first time about what it was like to be a movie star at the end of the big studio era, to be treated like a commodity, to be told what to do, how to behave, whom to be seen with, what to wear. He speaks also about what it was like to be gay, at first confused by his own fears and misgivings, then as an actor trapped by an image of boy-next-door innocence. And when he dared to be difficult, to complain to the studio about the string of mostly mediocre movies that were assigned to him, he learned that just like any manufactured product, he was disposable—disposable and replaceable.

Hunter's career as a bona fide movie star lasted a decade. But he persevered as an actor, working continuously at a profession he had come to love, seeking—and earning—the respect of his peers, and of the Hollywood community.

And so, Tab Hunter Confidential is at heart a story of survival—of the giddy highs of stardom, and the soul-destroying lows when phone calls begin to go unreturned; of the need to be loved, and the fear of being consumed; of the hope of an innocent boy, and the rueful summation of a man who did it all, and who lived to tell it all.

Editorial Reviews

Jacob Heilbrunn
Hunter offers shrewd assessments of the studio moguls Jack Warner and Harry Cohn, as well as hilarious anecdotes about working with Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner. After Warner Brothers cut him loose, Hunter's career stalled, but how sorry can you feel for someone who was whizzing around Capri and hanging out with Ingrid Bergman in his mid-20's? His foray into Tinseltown's past should help revive his name, but not, one suspects, his films.
— The New York Times
Louis Bayard
Like Hudson, Montgomery Clift and Sal Mineo, Hunter depended on what he calls the "gentleman's agreement in the Hollywood ranks, a 'live and let live' attitude about homosexuality. In private and around other like-minded people, you didn't have to pretend. In public, however, you were always careful." It led to a bifurcated existence, as Hunter's wry and unblinkered memoir makes all too clear.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The 1950s heartthrob has penned a brave, surprising and sad memoir about depression (his mother's), repression (his homosexuality) and redemption (a career revival and meeting his partner of 20-plus years). Hunter (b. 1931) was a good-looking 19-year-old with no acting experience when he was molded into a movie star, later stumbling into a hit record (1957's Young Love) and a two-year affair with Anthony Perkins. Although his acting improved over a decade of mediocre films, by the early 1960s he was scrambling for parts in movies starring Soupy Sales and going overseas to film spaghetti westerns. His career was reborn when he co-starred with Divine in John Water's Polyester (1981) and again in Lust in the Dust (1985), which introduced Hunter to a new generation and turned him into a gay icon. Hunter, who is virtually alone among actors of his era and stature to write about living a closeted gay life in Hollywood's spotlight, is honest about his shortcomings and missteps. He's made an admirable choice to chart his life through friendships and hardships (emotional and financial), rather than just his career trajectory. This is an illuminating, emotionally charged and important piece of Hollywood's hidden history. Photos. Agent, Fred Morris. (Oct. 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Celebrity biography mavens of the baby-boomer generation will especially welcome this memoir. They know Hunter as one of several glamour boys of the 1950s who were "manufactured" by Hollywood to appeal to teenage girls. Blond and tan, he couldn't act, but who cared? With film noir specialist Muller, Hunter tells his complicated life story. In reality, he was extremely introverted; his private life was so well concealed that much of the information related in this heartfelt and candid autobiography will come as a surprise to his fans: his affair with Tony Perkins, his figure-skating accomplishments, and the agony of being a big star at 20 and a fading commodity at 30. He also shares the confusion he suffered over his sexuality at a time when the subject of homosexuality was taboo and gay actors were heavily closeted and in constant fear of being "outed" by the likes of Confidential magazine. An engrossing tale of too much too soon, but with a surprisingly happy ending, this book is recommended for all public libraries.-Rosellen Brewer, Sno-Isle Libs., Marysville, WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Warner Brothers' former boy-next-door tells all. Tab Hunter's life would have made a brassy melodrama for Warners, where he reigned in the 1950s. He was born Arthur Gelien in New York City in 1931. Escaping her violent husband, Gelien's mother took her two sons to San Francisco, where Gelien fled to movie theaters, there first having sex with a man. At 15, Gelien lied about his age to join the Coast Guard. On leave in New York City, Gelien, now a smashing, muscular blond, woke up with a wealthy older man. Not wishing to be a "boy toy," he went West to make movies. Gelien's manager turned him into Tab Hunter, who took off his shirt to star in Island of Desire. Eager to draw teens, Warner Bros. cast him in Battle Cry, which he stole when he again doffed his shirt. Then scandal rag Confidential claimed cops arrested Hunter at a gay party. As damage control, Warners paired the actor with "beard" Natalie Wood, but after dates, Hunter pursued an affair with actor Tony Perkins. Eager to be taken seriously as an actor, Hunter bought out his Warners contract, donned his shirt and acted in They Came to Cordura and The Pleasure of His Company. More melodrama ensued when he stood trial, in 1960, for beating his dog. Acquitted, he relentlessly worked the dinner-theater circuit. After a heart attack, a stroke and mixed success as a producer, Hunter settled into a happy life with partner Allan Glaser, who suggested that he write his memoirs to head off the revelations of a projected, unauthorized biography. Whether that volume materializes and tells a different story remains to be seen. A straightforward account of how a gay actor handled the '50s-alas, not very differently than closeted gay actorsmanage their careers today.
New York Times Book Review
“A mesmerizing account of his Candide-like journey through Hollywood.” —The New York Times Book Review
Entertainment Weekly
“This bio might be the best work of [Tab Hunter’s] career. He takes readers on a gleeful romp.” —Entertainment Weekly
The Washington Post
"[A] wry, unblinkered memoir....with that golden hair and torso, the scrubbed skin and the jaw that could open cans, [Tab Hunter] was a whole Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue rolled into one package—except this package had a secret compartment."
The Washington Post
From the Publisher
“This bio might be the best work of [Tab Hunter’s] career. He takes readers on a gleeful romp.” —Entertainment Weekly

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.49(d)


Meet the Author

Tab Hunter, a star of screen, stage, and television, has appeared in more than fifty films, including Damn Yankees, Battle Cry, and Polyester. He continues to work as a film producer, and lives in southern California.

Eddie Muller, an authority on film noir, is the author of Dark City Dames as well as two mystery novels. He lives in the San Francisco area.

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Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this title because I saw Tab Hunter conduct a few promo's for it and thought he sounded like an interesting guy who had lived through some very interesting times. Of course he has, and they are documented here. The writing style is very easy to read and the format is straightforward narrative in chronological fashion. Mr. Hunter sometimes leaves a clue as to how one event will impact - come back to haunt or happily surprise - him at a later time, other times he relays how a particular event affected him at the time. For a history of middle American mores at mid-century, and that relationship with movies, movies stars, and movie studios, this is a great book. The book does not read like a salacious tell all gossip. Sometimes it almost feels like Mr. Hunter is reluctant to discuss his feelings about relationships or events. This does not hurt the book at all. It seems he is not a very self-reflective sort, so he relates events and relationships with remembrances of how he felt about them at the time, with little analysis or much judgement. It all makes for a very good read about a very physical, athletic, attractive man who was manufactured into a 1950's movie star. And lived to tell about it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good, Mr, Hunter is even today somewhat shy of any 'Kiss and Tell' but that's what you learn about his real personality as you read. For anyone interested in the sheer slogging work of acting, give this as a gift to your wanna be actor friends and family.
deeronpath More than 1 year ago
It was a good read! Love how candid it is and its interesting to remember what was going on in the world at the same time im reading the book...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this cos it was inexpensive and I like bios. I like this man he seems honest and not made up. We all hide little bits of ourselves good reading better than most.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read, couldn't put it down.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Tab Hunter Confidential is a fascinating look into the Hollywood of the 1950's and the man who helped to shape the image of that era. No one was better looking than Tab and it's interesting to read what a blessing and curse it must have been to walk in his shoes. The photos alone are worth the price of the book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're looking for a scandalous, 'tell-all' confessional, you're going to be disappointed. Instead, Hunter wonderfully recreates the glittering tinsel and surprising charm of 1950s Hollywood. Few actors got to work with the number of agents, directors, producers, and genuine stars (and a few 'flash-in-pans') as Hunter, and with a few deft pen-strokes, he pays tribute and gives thoughtful criticism to them all. The book is a must for anyone interested in Hollywood history and life behind the cameras that gave us 1950s fantasies in the dark. Thoroughly enjoyable from cover to cover, the book explodes some Hollywood myths and provides insightful comments and background on the making of several famous movies. And reading between the lines, you'll discover a secret about the author that his close friends always knew while the rest of us only suspected: Tab Hunter is a class act!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful fun. Tab Hunter's recounting of his climb to stardom in Hollywood is one of the best I've ever read, because Mr. Hunter has a talent for taking it all very lightly. I am loving this book so much that I hope he writes more books! You rule, Tab Hunter!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made sure stars dated and even married. it was mentioned in the classics and who had not heard about the writer who went to jail while his well born partner didnt because he was a royal. And who married a three time married woman and family was really glad he did and stayed in excile. before a certain date a mixed race marriage was illegal