Hunter in a trailer for Gunman's Walk (1958)
|Born||Arthur Andrew Kelm
July 11, 1931
New York City, United States
|Other names||Arthur Gelien
"The Sigh Guy"
|Occupation||Actor, singer, writer|
|Allan Glaser (1983-present)|
Tab Hunter (born Arthur Andrew Kelm; July 11, 1931) is an American actor, pop singer, and author. He has starred in over 40 films and is probably best known as a Hollywood star of the 1950s and 1960s.
Hunter was born in New York City, the son of Gertrude (née Gelien) and Charles Kelm. His mother, from Hamburg, was a German Catholic immigrant, and his father was Jewish. Hunter's father was an abusive man and within a few years of his birth, his parents divorced and his mother moved with her two sons to California, living in San Francisco, Long Beach and Los Angeles. She reassumed her maiden surname Gelien and changed her sons' name to that, as well. As a teenager, Hunter was a figure skater, competing in both singles and pairs.
He joined the U.S. Coast Guard at the age of 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. When his age was discovered, he was discharged by the Coast Guard. He met actor Dick Clayton socially; Clayton suggested that Hunter become an actor.
Hunter's first film role was a minor part in a film noir, The Lawless (1950). He was promoted to the lead for his next, Island of Desire (1952) opposite Linda Darnell and directed by Stuart Heisler. The film was essentially a two hander between Hunter and Darnell; it was a hit.
He 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 an adventure tale, Return to Treasure Island (1954), playing the lead.
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 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.
In September 1955 the tabloid magazine Confidential reported Hunter's 1950 arrest for disorderly conduct. 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 his more prominent client Rock Hudson's sexual orientation to the public. Not only did this have 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. In 1956, he received 62,000 Valentines. Hunter, James Dean and Natalie Wood were the last of the actors placed under exclusive studio contract to Warner Bros. Warners decided to promote him to star status, teaming him with Natalie Wood in two back-to-back 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 Warner's attempt to make Tab and Natalie the William Powell and Myrna Loy of the 1950s. Hunter was Warner Bros.' most popular male star from 1955-1959.
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. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. He also had the hit, "Ninety-Nine Ways," which peaked at No. 11 in the US and No. 5 in the UK. 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 zenith. 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 that Hunter considers his favorite role.
Hunter starred in the 1958 musical film Damn Yankees, in which he played Joe Hardy of Washington, D.C.'s American League baseball club. The film had originally been a Broadway show, but Hunter was the only one in the film version who had not appeared in the original cast. The show was based on the 1954 best-selling 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.
The Tab Hunter Show had moderate ratings (due to being scheduled opposite The Ed Sullivan Show) and lasted only one season (36 episodes) but was a huge hit in the United Kingdom, where it ranked as one of the top situation comedies of the year.
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 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).
His career was revived in the 1980s, when he starred opposite actor Divine in John Waters' Polyester (1981) and Paul Bartel's Lust in the Dust (1985). He played Mr. Stewart, the substitute teacher in Grease 2 (1982), who sang "Reproduction." Hunter had a major role in the 1988 horror film Cameron's Closet. He also wrote and starred in Dark Horse (1992).
A 2015 documentary about his life, Tab Hunter Confidential, was directed by Jeffrey Schwarz and produced by Hunter's partner Allan Glaser. A feature film on Hunter's life is currently in development with Bad Robot/ J.J. Abrams.
Hunter's autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star (2005), co-written with Eddie Muller, became a New York Times best-seller as did the paperback edition in 2007. The book is still currently in publication and was nominated for several writing awards. It re-entered the New York Times Best Seller list on June 28, 2015 during the release of the documentary film based on the book.
In the book, he acknowledged that he is homosexual, confirming rumors that had circulated 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 were strictly the fodder of studio publicity departments. As Wood and Hunter embarked on a well-publicized but fictitious romance, promoting his apparent heterosexuality while promoting their films, insiders developed their own headline for the item: "Natalie Wood and Tab Wouldn't."
Hunter became close enough with Etchika Choureau, his co-star in Lafayette Escadrille, and Joan Perry, widow of Harry Cohn, to contemplate marriage, but he thought he never could maintain a marriage, and remained merely platonic friends with both women.
During Hollywood's studio era, Hunter says, "[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 emphasizes 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." "There was a lot written about my sexuality, and the press was pretty darn cruel," the actor says, but what "moviegoers wanted to hold in their hearts were the boy-next-door marines, cowboys and swoon-bait sweethearts I portrayed."
Hunter has a star for his contributions to the music industry on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6320 Hollywood Blvd. In 2007, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
|"Red Sails In The Sunset"||57||--|
|"Don't Get Around Much Anymore"||74||--|
|1959||"(I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time"||31||--|
|"There's No Fool Like A Young Fool"||68||--|
|1950||The Lawless||Frank O'Brien||also released under the title The Dividing Line|
|1952||Saturday Island||Marine Corporal Michael J. "Chicken" Dugan||also released under the title Island of Desire|
|1953||Gun Belt||Chip Ringo|
|1953||The Steel Lady||Bill Larson||also released under the title Treasure of Kalifa|
|1954||Return to Treasure Island||Clive Stone|
|1954||Track of the Cat||Harold Bridges|
|1955||Battle Cry||Pvt. / Cpl. Dan 'Danny' Forrester|
|1955||The Sea Chase||Cadet Wesser|
|1956||The Burning Hills||Trace Jordan|
|1956||The Girl He Left Behind||Andy L. Shaeffer|
|1958||Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates||Hans Brinker||TV movie|
|1958||Gunman's Walk||Ed Hackett|
|1958||Lafayette Escadrille||Thad Walker|
|1958||Damn Yankees||Joe Hardy||Also released under the title What Lola Wants in the UK|
|1959||Meet Me in St. Louis||John Truett||TV movie|
|1959||They Came to Cordura||Lt. William Fowler|
|1959||That Kind of Woman||Red|
|1961||The Pleasure of His Company||Roger Henderson|
|1961||Summer on Ice||Himself||TV movie|
|1962||The Golden Arrow||Hassan|
|1963||Operation Bikini||Lt. Morgan Hayes|
|1964||Ride the Wild Surf||Steamer Lane|
|1964||Troubled Waters||Alex Carswell|
|1965||City Under the Sea||Ben Harris||released 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||Jerry||also known under alternate titles as 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|
|1971||Hacksaw||Tim Andrews||TV movie|
|1972||Sweet Kill||Eddie Collins|
|1972||The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean||Sam Dodd|
|1975||Timber Tramps||Big Swede|
|1975||Circle of Fear:The Ghost in Potter's Field||Bob Harig||TV Series Guest Star|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||David Hamilton|
|1978||Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold||Elliot Bender||TV movie|
|1979||The Kid from Left Field||Bill Lorant||TV movie|
|1982||Grease 2||Mr. Stuart|
|1982||And They're Off||Henry Barclay|
|1982||Natalie: A Very Special Tribute to a Very Special Lady||Himself||Made-for-TV documentary|
|1985||Lust in the Dust||Abel Wood|
|1988||Out of the Dark||Driver|
|1988||Cameron's Closet||Owen Lansing|
|1988||James Stewart's Wonderful Life||Himself||Made-for-TV documentary|
|1995||Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick||Himself||Documentary|
|1996||Ballyhoo: The Hollywood Sideshow||Himself||Documentary|
|1998||The Best of Hollywood||Himself/Presenter/Narrator||Made-for-TV documentary|
|2002||Elvis Forever||Himself||Made-for-TV documentary about Elvis Presley|
|2003||Rita||Himself||Made-for-TV documentary about Rita Hayworth|
|2007||The Brothers Warner||Himself||Documentary|
|2008||Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical Treasure||Himself||Made-for-TV documentary|
|2008||Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History||Himself||Made-for-TV documentary|
|2013||I Am Divine||Himself||Documentary about regular co-star and drag queen Divine|
|2015||Tab Hunter Confidential||Himself||Documentary about Hunter's life as a matinee idol, based upon his book of the same name|
|2018||Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age||Himself||Documentary|