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Henry Willson started off as a talent scout under powerhouse mogul David O. Selznick, for whom Willson procured women. The starmaker-to-be was therefore on the lookout for promising newcomers—as actors, lovers and sometimes both—when he received an unsolicited photograph from a movie star hopeful named Roy Scherer. Unbeknownst to Willson, the photograph of the handsome young man with bad teeth would have not only a career-defining impact for himself but, more importantly, redefine Hollywood’s concept of the male heartthrob. Roy Scherer became Rock Hudson and for the next twenty-five years Henry Wilson became the man behind movie “beefcake.”
The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson delves into Willson’s life in explicit, unsparing detail. Variety reporter Robert Hofler deftly chronicles Willson’s maneuvers to sidestep the FBI's investigation into Hudson's sex life; the starmaker's use of off-duty L.A.P.D. cops and Mob ties to scare off Hudson's blackmailers; Hudson's "arranged" marriage to Willson's secretary, Phyllis Gates; as well as Hudson’s affair with a Universal Pictures vice-president to help secure starring roles in Magnificent Obsession and Giant. Additionally, the book digs into Willson’s other star clients, including Robert Wagner, Troy Donahue, Tab Hunter, and John Derek.
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Robert Hofler has been Variety's New York-based theater reporter for over three years. Previously, he was a senior editor in Variety's L.A. office. He has also been an editor at Buzz, Life and Us magazines. His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Washington Post and Premiere magazine. He lives in New York City.From Publishers Weekly:
Those who think Hollywood's current predatory political scene and celebrity partner-swapping activities are new phenomena would be wise to dive into this tell-all tale of Henry Willson, an agent who became a major star maker to actors like Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter and Troy Donahue in the 1950s. Rapacious, ambitious and fond of a sex-for-roles strategy, Willson (1911–1978) is a compelling character worthy of this extensive biography. His story, too, illustrates the rise of the studio star system, in which actresses were pimped out to movie executives by their agents, and actors married to cover their homosexual liaisons. Hofler, a former Variety senior editor now the publication's theater reporter, delves into this shadowy, sometimes seamy world with particular relish, and his writing has all the sizzle of the films his subjects starred in. He includes interviews with a number of Hollywood insiders (Roddy McDowall and Shirley Temple Black, to name two), and shows remarkable sympathy for Willson, offering a glimpse into a man and an era that may be past, but whose effects linger still. Photos.
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