Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed
Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed tells the story of the titular actor, one of Hollywood’s most popular stars in the 50s and 60s, exploring his cultural and cinematic legacy, as well as his experiences as a gay man in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The documentary covers Hudson’s storied career in great detail, combining archival footage and extensive interviews with people who knew him to create a comprehensive but compelling portrait of a complicated public figure. There’s a good balance between old and new footage to keep the experience engaging, with the additional narrative device of recontextualised clips from Rock’s cinematic oeuvre, injecting some additional visual interest and enough humour to effectively balance out some of the tougher talking points.
As well as Hudson’s personal journey in understanding and embracing his sexuality, All That Heaven Allowed also explores the society that he lived in, revealing the ways that the ideal of masculinity was constructed and enforced within the entertainment industry, and presenting the complex social labyrinth that Hudson and his peers had to navigate in order to live authentic and fulfilling lives.
It’s a fascinating look into how society has changed since the 50s and 60s, but also serves to highlight how the same outdated perceptions of gender still permeate everyday life in the 21st century, charting the history of these manufactured ideals and exposing their artifice.
As much as All That Heaven Allowed is a celebration of Rock Hudson’s life, it is also an examination of his death. As the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness, Hudson’s diagnosis acted as a major catalyst for a shift in public perception of the disease, and the documentary shows with painful clarity the devastating impact of AIDS as well as the shocking neglect and indifference from the Reagan administration that directly contributed to the crisis.
Overall, Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed is a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era, but one that also challenges the society we live in today and questions the extent of our progress regarding gender and sexuality. At times, it can be a tough watch, but it’s as much a tribute to resilience, community and, of course, love, as it is a sobering look at the grim spectre of homophobia that persists to this day.
Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed is released digitally on demand on 23rd October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed here: