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Documentary recalls secret Rock Hudson kept, but ultimately awareness he raised about AIDS

Rock Hudson, pictured in 1960 with actress Gina Lollobrigida in a promotional photo for their film "Come September."Remo Nassi/AP/file

On June 28, HBO and streamer Max are premiering a documentary about the life — and the death — of Rock Hudson. Called “Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed,” and directed by Stephen Kijak, it will look back at the actor who became famous in the 1950s, shaped by his publicists into the guy women wanted and the man men wanted to be.

He was, as we know now, in the closet as a gay man, which came to light when he became sick with AIDS. Until that point, great pains had been taken to keep the secret. One of Hudson’s romantic partners says, in the trailer for the film, “We were ordered never to have our picture taken together, because somebody would know that we were gay.”


Hudson confirmed the rumors that he had AIDS in July of 1985, one of the first major celebrities to do so. He died at 59 on Oct. 2 of that year. As one speaker notes in the trailer for the film, Hudson’s death changed the course of history around AIDS, opening up the conversation that many people didn’t want to have and enabling much-needed funding.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.