American actor, singer and producer Tab Hunter kicked off his motion picture acting career in the 1950s and appeared in “Return to Treasure Island” (1954), “Battle Cry” (1955), “The Burning Hills” and “The Girl He Left Behind” (both 1956; both costarred with Natalie Wood), “Lafayette Escadrille” (1958), “That Kind of Woman” (1959), “Operation Bikini” (1963), “War-Gods of the Deep” (1965), “Birds Do It” (1966) and “The Last Chance” (1968). He received a Golden Laurel nomination for his portrayal of Joe Hardy in the big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical “Damn Yankees” (1958), where he also performed two songs. On television, he starred in his own series, “The Tab Hunter Show” (1960-1961).
“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.” (Tab Hunter in a 1971 interview)
After his popularity waned, Hunter only appeared in four films during the 1970s, including John Huston's “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” (1972) and Curtis Hanson's “Sweet Kill” (1973). On the small screen, he replaced Philip Bruns in the series “Forever Fernwood” (1977) and acted in the TV film remake “The Kid from Left Field” (1979). He also appeared as a guest in television series. He attempted to resume his film career during the 1980s with performances in “Polyester” (1981), “Grease 2” (1982), “Cameron's Closet” (1988), “Grotesque” (1988) and “Out of the Dark” (1989). It was during that time that he produced “Lust in the Dust” (1985), which he also starred in. In 1992, he produced, contributed to the story and acted in the dramatic film “Dark Horse.” More recently, Hunter was seen in numerous documentaries and biographies, including “Wild Bill, Hollywood Maverick: The Life and Times of William A Wellman” (1995) and “The Brothers Warner” (2008). As a singer, Hunter is perhaps best known for his No. 1 hit single “Young Love” (1956). He also produced several top 40 hits in the 1950s. In 2005, Hunter released an autobiography titled “Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star.”
Hunter is an inductee of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was linked to several famous women, including Natalie Wood, Debbie Reynold, Etchika Choureau and Joan Cohn, before he came out as a homosexual, a fact he detailed in his autobiography. He was in a long relationship with bisexual actor Anthony Perkins before finding true love with Allan Glaser, his partner since 1982. Hunter and Glaser currently reside in Montecito, California. He was also once involved with dancer Rudolf Nureyev, actor Scott Marlowe and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson.
On December 23, 1980, at age 49, Hunter had a heart attack while
skiing in Taos, New Mexico. Eleven years later, in March 1991, he
suffered a stroke. He has since recovered.
Arthur Andrew Kelm
Childhood and Family:
Tab Hunter was born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11, 1931, in New York City, New York, to German immigrants Charles Kelm and Gertrude Gelien. His parents divorced within a few years of his birth because his father was abusive. After the separation, his mother moved the children to California and all three changed their last names to her maiden surname. Tab's brother, Walter, was killed in the Vietnam War in 1965.
As a teenager, Tab was a competitive figure skater. He also developed a passion for horseback riding. After leaving school, 15 year old Tab lied about his age so he could join the Coast Guard. When they discovered the truth, he was discharged. After returning home, he landed a job with a riding academy thanks to his love of horseback riding. Armed with attractive good looks and an athletic build, he later tried his hand at acting.
The Tab Hunter Show
Tab Hunter made his professional acting debut at age 19 when he landed a small role in the Joseph Losey feature “The Lawless” (1950), starring Macdonald Carey, Gail Russell and Johnny Sands. Despite his lack of acting experience, he followed his debut with costarring roles in Stuart Heisler's “Saturday Island” (1952, as Marine Corporal Michael Dugan) and Ray Nazarro's “Gun Belt” (1953, with George Montgomery) before working with director E A Dupont in the movies “The Steel Lady” (1953, opposite Rod Cameron) and “Return to Treasure Island” (1954, starred as Clive Stone). Still in 1954, he worked with director William Wellman in the movie adaptation of Walter Van Tilburg Clark's adventure novel “Track of the Cat,” which starred Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright.
In 1955, Hunter was cast as soldier Danny Forrester in the Academy Award nominated film “Battle Cry,” which was directed by Raoul Walsh and written by Leon Uris. Costars of the film included Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, James Whitmore, Anne Francis, Dorothy Malone, Raymond Massey and Mona Freeman. After supporting John Wayne and Lana Turner in the John Farrow picture “The Sea Chase” (1955), in which he played Cadet Wesser, he was paired with teen idol Natalie Wood for the western “The Burning Hills” (1956). The two were reunited that same year in the romantic movie “The Girl He Left Behind,” which was written by Guy Trosper and directed by David Butler.
Hunter branched out to television in the mid 1950s with a costarring role in “The Ford Television Theatre” episode “While We're Young” (as Gig Spevvy). He went on to appear in TV shows like “Lux Video Theatre,” “Climax” (both 1955), “Conflict” (1956), “Playhouse 90” (2 episodes, 1956-1958) and “General Electric Theater” (1959). He also starred as Hans Brinker in the 1958 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of “Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates” (NBC, 1958).
After nearly two years’ absence, Hunter starred in the film “Lafayette Escadrille” (1958), a reunion with director William Wellman, then worked with Van Heflin in “Gunman's Walk” (1958), which was helmed by Phil Karlson. He next delivered a memorable performance as Joe Hardy in the musical “Damn Yankees” (1958), which was adapted from the 1955 Broadway musical of the same name. The role brought him a Golden Laurel nomination for Top Male Musical Performance. He also performed the songs “Goodbye, Old Girl” and “Two Lost Souls” for the film. Hunter then played John Truett in the CBS special “Meet Me in St. Louis,” opposite Jane Powell, Walter Pidgeon and Myrna Loy, costarred with Sophia Loren and Jack Warden in Sidney Lumet's “That Kind of Woman” and supported Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth in Robert Rossen's “They Came to Cordura” (all 1959). Commenting on costar Gary Cooper, he stated, “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.”
After being arrested for allegedly beating his dog Fritz, which resulted in 11 days of trial that began in 1960, Hunter starred in the situation comedy “The Tab Hunter Show,” where he played swinging bachelor Paul Morgan. The show ran on NBC from September 18, 1960, to April 30, 1961. Following the show's cancellation, he was cast as the fiancé of Debby Reynolds, Roger Berk Henderson, in the big screen version of Cornelia Otis Skinner's Broadway play “The Pleasure of His Company” (1961) and starred as Hassan in the Italian movie “La freccia d'oro” (“The Golden Arrow,” 1962). He briefly returned to the small screen in 1962 by making guest appearances in the series “Saints and Sinners” and “Combat” before starring with Frankie Avalon and Scott Brady in the movie “Operation Bikini” (1963). He then starred in the British film “Troubled Waters” (1964, opposite Michael Goodliffe), played the supporting role of Steamer Lane in Don Taylor's “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964, with Barbara Eden, Peter Brown and Catherine McLeod), shared top billing with Vincent Price and David Tomlinson in the science fiction film “War-Gods of the Deep” (1965, directed by Jacques Tourneur), was featured in Tony Richardson's “The Loved One” (1965), based on the Evelyn Waugh satirical novel “The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy” (1948), and teamed up with Soupy Sales, Arthur O'Connell, Edward Andrews and Beverly Adams in the comedy film “Birds Do It” (1966, directed by Andrew Marton). From 1967 to 1969, he starred in Richard Rush's comedy “El dedo del destino” (“The Fickle Finger of Fate”), R.G. Springsteen's “Hostile Guns” (with George Montgomery and Yvonne De Carlo), Giuseppe Rosati's “Scacco internazionale” (“The Last Chance”), Roberto Mauri's “La vendetta è il mio perdono” (“Vengeance Is My Forgiveness”) and “No importa morir” (“The Legion of No Return”).
Hunter worked extensively for television during the 1970s, although he sporadically returned to features with roles in 1972's “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” (directed by John Huston; starred Paul Newman), 1973's “Sweet Kill” (written and directed by Curtis Hanson), 1975's “Timber Tramps” (directed by Tay Garnett) and 1976's “Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood” (directed by Michael Winner; starred Madeline Kahn and Teri Garr). The handsome actor made episodic appearances in a string of TV shows, like “The Virginian” (1970), “Disneyland” (1971), “Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law” (1972), “Ghost Story” (1973), “The Six Million Dollar Man” (1975), “McMillan & Wife” (1976), “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” (1977-1978), “The Love Boat” (1977), “Police Woman” (1978), “Hawaii Five-O” (1978) and “$weepstake$” (1979). He also played George Shumway (post plastic surgery) in “Forever Fernwood” (1977) and worked in the TV films “Hacksaw” (1971), “Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold” (1978, with Kim Basinger) and “The Kid from Left Field” (1979, supported Gary Coleman, Robert Guillaume, Gary Collins and Ed McMahon), a remake of the 1953 film starring Dan Dailey and Anne Bancroft.
Opening the 1980s, Hunter portrayed Bill Maddox in an episode of “Charlie's Angels” called “Nips and Tucks” (1980) and Dr. Voorhees in the “Strike Force” episode “Night Nurse” (1981). In between the episodes, he costarred with Devine in the John Waters comedy film “Polyester” (1981), where he also sang the theme song. The following year, he joined Eileen Brennan, Phil Hartman, Carol Kane, David Lander, Eve Arden, Paul Reubens and Tom Smothers for the horror film “Pandemonium” and played Mr. Stuart in the musical film “Grease 2,” the sequel to the highly successful 1978 film “Grease,” which starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. He also appeared in the episode “Death in a Funny Position” of the ABC comedy series “Benson.”
Following guest spots in “The Fall Guy” and “Masquerade” (both 1984), Hunter made his producing debut with Paul Bartel's movie “Lust in the Dust” (1985), in which he also starred as Abel Wood. The film marked his second partnership with Divine. Also in 1985, he was credited as the performer for “Young Love” in Mel Damski's comedy “Mischief.” “Young Love” was Hunter's No.1 hit single released in 1956. Hunter then landed the supporting role of Owen Lansing in Armand Mastroianni's horror film “Cameron's Closet” (1988), costarred with Linda Blair in the horror flick “Grotesque” (1988, directed by Joe Tornatore) and made last screen collaboration with Divine in Michael Schroeder's “Out of the Dark” (1989), where he had a featured role as a taxi driver.
In 1992, Hunter earned story credit on David Hemmings' “Dark Horse,” where he also had a supporting role and served as a producer. Three years later, he appeared in “Wild Bill, Hollywood Maverick: The Life and Times of William A Wellman” (1995), a documentary exploring the career of famed film director William A. Wellman, which was written and directed by Todd Robinson. He went on to appear as an interview subject in various documentaries, including “Sophia Loren: Actress Italian Style” (A&E, 1997), “Natalie Wood: The E! True Hollywood Story” (1997, TV), “Elvis Forever” (2002, TV), “Rita” (2003, TV), “John Waters” (2004, TV) and “The Brothers Warner” (2008).
Hunter is set to appear as himself in the documentary film “I Am Divine,” scheduled for a 2011 release, and “Tab Hunter Confidential,” which tells his story as a Hollywood star of the 1950s and 1960s.