It seems EVERYBODY has something to say about Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series and its “revisionist” history of Hollywood – GAY Hollywood to be specific.
They either love it or hate it, there’s very little in between. One major plot line is how homosexual nobody Roy Fitzgerald became American heart-throb, movie star Rock Hudson.
In Outlaws, the third episode of Hollywood, Jake Picking plays an early-career Hudson when Jim Parsons pops up as Henry Willson, the agent who transformed Hudson into one of the most bankable romantic leads ever.
Hollywood producer Ryan Murphy told Vanity Fair,
“Henry Willson was a fantastic, crazy character. He was a complete alcoholic. He drank crème de menthe. He was involved in the mafia. He had dirt on everybody that he would weaponize.
And he would find these young guys who almost all came from horrible home situations—with broken marriages and absent fathers—and take them on as clients…He was a tormented gay man who preyed on tormented gay men. He would be their manager and make them sexually service him. Weirdly, he was actually an okay manager. He was friends with everyone, so could get clients in the room with [power brokers].”
He felt that he knew what America wanted to see in a certain type of male star.”
Jim Parsons who plays Willson told Vanity Fair,
“and he made it his mission to make sure they all fit the general mold, including the names he came up with, like Guy, Rock, and Tab.
There was something very marketable about it…He saw them as commodities, and things to be shaped and molded from his own personal factory.”
Later on Hudson ended up marrying Willson’s secretary Phyllis Gates in order to put the rampant homo rumors that were circulating to rest but their fake marital union dissolved after only three years. After both Hudson and Gates had died, years later, it was revealed that she had tried, unsuccessfully, to blackmail Rock following their divorce. But Willson himself stepped in with explicitly erotic photographs of his former secretary engaged lesbian activity.
But as nasty and predatory as Willson was, his biographer Robert Hofler thinks the series plays that old cliché up too much, saying,
“As the man who wrote The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, I can say that the Hollywood series promotes an anti-gay trope: old gay men preyed on innocent young gay (and straight) men. The biggest falsehood promoted by this series is that the young Roy Fitzgerald was innocent.
Fitzgerald used another producer boyfriend to meet Henry Willson, then dumped that boyfriend to sign with Willson. Fitzgerald/Hudson was more than willing to play Willson’s game.”
That quote came to me via a Facebook friend, and my real friend, author Kevin Sessums, who is not a fan of the series, so far says,
“I made it to the point at which the Henry Willson character does the dance of the seven veils for the Rock Hudson character and had to switch it off.
Not sure I’ll go back to it or not… I understand the impulse could be interpreted as a good one to rewrite the history of Hollywood as a more inclusive one but I found myself averting my eyes from it during so many scenes that I found it tiring as well as tiresome.”
Another Facebook friend is the legendary bombshell, Mamie Van Doren, who lived through this era and knows where all of the bodies are buried –possibly literally. (I’m dying to get her take on this series…)
Mamie posted this first screen test of Hudson’s and you can see why Willson thought he had “it”.