By: Shannon Page
Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz (I am Divine, Vito) and based on the memoir Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Tab Hunter Confidential explores the life and career of matinee idol Tab Hunter.
After he was discovered by a movie agent, Hunter became, as fellow actor George Takei so aptly states in the film, the “embodiment of youthful American masculinity”. With his blond hair, blue eyes, and natural charm, Hunter was immediately popular with teenagers (especially young women) and the film documents both his struggle with life in the public eye and his identity as a closeted gay man in the world of 1950s Hollywood. The film features interviews with such prominent actors as Takei, Clint Eastwood, Natalie Wood, and Debbie Reynolds. As would be expected, Hunter himself is interviewed directly and featured prominently alongside footage from his films and photographs.
The documentary’s insistence on examining different facets of Hunter’s life and work is praiseworthy. Throughout Tab Hunter Confidential, there is a constant refusal to reduce Hunter to his sexuality or to exploit his personal life and romantic history to any great extent. Hunter, now 84 and retired from acting, still exudes the charisma that made him a star. But, his reflections on the last years of the Golden Age of Hollywood are surprisingly frank and down to earth.
While there is nothing particularly groundbreaking or exceptional about the camerawork, the subdued visuals allow Hunter’s story and the interviews with his friends, co-stars, and acquaintances to really seize the spotlight of the film. This isn’t a flashy or experimental piece of documentary filmmaking. It is, however, an intelligent and affectionate exploration of fame, identity, and sexuality that is accessible both to long-time fans and those that may be completely unfamiliar with Hunter’s films.
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Shannon Page: @ShannonEvePage