Tab Hunter –

Hunter in Track of the Cat.

About Tab Hunter (1931 – ____)

Tab Hunter (born Arthur Andrew Kelm) 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.

He left the Coast Guard and met Dick Clayton socially. Clayton suggested that Hunter become an actor.

Clayton introduced Hunter to agent, Henry Willson, who specialized in "pretty boy" stars such as Guy Madison and Robert Wagner. It was Willson who named him "Tab Hunter".

Hunter's first film role was in a film noir, The Lawless (1950). It was a minor part. 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 a Western for producer Edward Small, Gun Belt (1953). 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.

He began acting on stage, appearing in a production of Our Town. He was offered a contract at Warner Bros.

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 looking for someone 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 best seller by Leon Uris and became a big hit, 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 & Wood. Hunter rejected the third picture thus ending Warner's attempt to make Tab & Natalie the William Powell and Myrna Loy of the 1950s. Hunter was Warner Bros most popular male star from 1955-1959.

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 one season, (36 episodes) but it was a huge hit in the United Kingdom, where it ranked as one of the top situation comedies of the year.

In the 1960s, Hunter had a co-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).

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 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 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).

In the 1970s, Hunter had a lead role in Sweet Kill (1973), the first movie from Curtis Hanson. He won a co-starring role in the successful film The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972).

He had small roles in Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) and Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold (1978).

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 is particularly remembered by later audiences as 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 gay, 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, " 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 had long-term relationships with actor Anthony Perkins and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson, before settling down with his partner of over 30 years, film producer Allan Glaser.

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.

Tab Hunter's movie credits include...

Year Movie Role
1950The LawlessFrank O'Brien
1952Saturday IslandMarine Corporal Michael J. "Chicken" Dugan
1953Gun BeltChip Ringo
1953The Steel LadyBill Larson
1954Return to Treasure IslandClive Stone
1954Track of the CatHarold Bridges
1955Battle CryPvt. / Cpl. Dan 'Danny' Forrester
1955The Sea ChaseCadet Wesser
1956The Burning HillsTrace Jordan
1956The Girl He Left BehindAndy L. Shaeffer
1958Hans Brinker and the Silver SkatesHans Brinker
1958Gunman's Walk
1958Lafayette EscadrilleThad Walker
1958Damn YankeesJoe Hardy
1959Meet Me in St. LouisJohn Truett
1959They Came to CorduraLt. William Fowler
1959That Kind of WomanRed
1961The Pleasure of His CompanyRoger Henderson
1961Summer on IceHimself
1962The Golden ArrowHassan
1963Operation BikiniLt. Morgan Hayes
1964Ride the Wild SurfSteamer Lane
1964Troubled WatersAlex Carswell
1965City Under the SeaBen Harris
1965The Loved OneWhispering Glades Tour Guide
1966Birds Do ItLt. Porter
1967The Fickle Finger of FateJerry
1967Hostile GunsMike Reno
1968Vengeance Is My ForgivenessSheriff Durango
1968The Last ChancePatrick Harris
1969Bridge over the ElbeRichard
1970The VirginianCart Banner
1971HacksawTim Andrews
1972Sweet KillEddie Collins
1972The Life and Times of Judge Roy BeanSam Dodd
1975Timber TrampsBig Swede
1976Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved HollywoodDavid Hamilton
1978Katie: Portrait of a CenterfoldElliot Bender
1979The Kid from Left FieldBill Lorant
1981PolyesterTodd Tomorrow
1982PandemoniumBlue Grange
1982Grease 2Mr. Stuart
1982And They're OffHenry Barclay
1982Natalie: A Very Special Tribute to a Very Special LadyHimself
1985Lust in the DustAbel Wood
1988Out of the DarkDriver
1988Cameron's ClosetOwen Lansing
1988James Stewart's Wonderful LifeHimself
1992Dark HorsePerkins
1995Wild Bill: Hollywood MaverickHimself
1996Ballyhoo: The Hollywood SideshowHimself
1998The Best of HollywoodHimself/Presenter/Narrator
2002Elvis ForeverHimself
2007The Brothers WarnerHimself
2008Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical TreasureHimself
2008Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical HistoryHimself
2013I Am DivineHimself
2015Tab Hunter ConfidentialHimself
2016Broadway: Beyond the Golden AgeHimself

Memorable Quotes by Tab Hunter

[in a 1971 interview] “ The star thing is over. I've knocked around quite a bit in the past few years and now I'm just another actor looking for work. Acting is what I know and what I do best... I'm trying to find a new niche... something to help erase that bland image the studios gave me in the Fifties. I'm looking for roles that will establish me as a more mature actor. ”

[on his love for Montecito, California] “ It's like the French Riviera without the French. I thank God every day I'm able to be there. ”

[on Gary Cooper] “ Coop was a lovely guy. His sense of humor was kind of within. He'd do something he knew was funny. He laughed inwardly. It was a delight! He's say things, then chuckle within himself. He was wonderful, low-key, like Fred Astaire, an absolute gentleman. These are quality, quality people. They have their own atmosphere about them. Coop's was very laid-back and easy. ”

“ I still don't look at it as if I've come out. Coming out, what does that mean? What I'm concerned about is people as human beings. Are you a decent human being? What are you contributing? That's important. ”

“ I think marriage is just between two people and their maker, period. Doesn't concern any of us, whether it be a woman and a woman, a man and a man, or a man and a woman, I don't care. ”

“ I had a very grounded family. My mother was very structured. She used to say, "There is yes and there is no and there is no in between." Tell that to people today. And I had a brother that I looked up to that was terrific. When negative things happen, you just have to believe that somewhere under the pile of crap is a pony. You just gotta be positive, 'cause there's too much negativity around. ”

Things You May Not Know About Tab Hunter

His bare chest was chosen to adorn the cover of Donald Reuter's book: "Shirtless! The Hollywood Male Physique."

Following the likes of Richard Chamberlain, Tab released his tell-all 2005 memoir revealing his homosexuality. The book entitled "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star" outlines a late 1950s relationship with actor Anthony Perkins that lasted several years. Other briefer flings mentioned included dancer Rudolf Nureyev, actor Scott Marlowe and ice-skater Ronnie Robertson. The book was actually written in 2003 but held in release for two years.

He was once arrested following an L.A. raid on a "pajama party" in Walnut Park in 1950. Tab was eventually fined $50 for a reduced "disorderly conduct" charge after originally being charged with "idle, lewd or dissolute conduct."

The name "Tab Hunter" came from agent Henry Willson who wanted to "tab" the actor wannabe with a catchy new name. "Hunter" came from his skills as a horseman who rode hunters and jumpers.

On December 23, 1980, he suffered a heart attack at age 49 while skiing in Taos, New Mexico. In March 1991, he suffered a stroke. He recovered from both.

He was Warner Bros. Records' first signee.

Tab Hunter and Tuesday Weld in The Tab Hunter Show (1960-1961).
With Rossana Podesta in The Golden Arrow (1962).
04_the-girl-he-left-behind-pic1 02_the-girl-he-left-behind-pic3-with-natalie-wood
Hunter in The Girl He Left Behind (1956)... middle picture with James Garner, Valentin de Vargas, Robert Hover, Brett Halsey, and Clyde Hudkins Jr. ... bottom picture with Natalie Wood.
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With Natalie Wood in The Burning Hills (1956).
With Divine in Polyester (1981).
With Signe Hasso in an episode of Ellery Queen (1976).
14_damn-yankees-pic1-with-elizabeth-howell-jean-stapleton 13_damn-yankees-pic2-with-gwen-verdon
Hunter in Damn Yankees! (1958)... top picture with Elizabeth Howell and Jean Stapleton... bottom picture with Gwen Verdon.
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Tab Hunter in Battle Cry (1955)... second picture with John Lupton... third picture with Aldo Ray... fourth picture with Dorothy Malone... sixth and seventh pictures with Mona Freeman, Dorothy Malone, and Raoul Walsh... with Malone in picture eight... with Mona Freeman and Raoul Walsh in bottom picture.