Tab Hunter: 1950s Hollywood idol who hid his sexuality dies at 86

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Tab Hunter Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hunter: “No one took me seriously… I wanted so much to be accepted as an actor”

Actor Tab Hunter, one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs of the 1950s, has died at the age of 86.

Hunter was a screen idol in the 1950s and early ’60s thanks to such hit movies as Damn Yankees and Battle Cry.

He also hosted his own TV show, while his song Young Love went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic.

But he hid his homosexuality and his relationship with actor Anthony Perkins. JJ Abrams is reportedly making a movie about the pair’s relationship.

The film, titled Tab & Tony, will be produced by the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Variety reported last month.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter on a “date” in the mid-1950s

Hunter was often photographed on “dates” with actresses like Natalie Wood, his co-star in 1956’s The Girl He Left Behind. But they were fabricated for the press.

The other producers on the film reportedly include Allan Glaser, Hunter’s longtime partner, and Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto.

Quinto tweeted: “So sad to wake up to the news of the passing of Tab Hunter. I was honoured to get to know him in the past year and am so grateful to have experienced his sheer joy and love of life.”

Sir Elton John was among the others to pay tribute, writing: “RIP to the most handsome and special man. Young Love forever.”

Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne said he had been “one of the most charming men I ever met”, while playwright Harvey Fierstein remembered him as a “gawjuss gay icon and true gentleman”.

Hunter’s breakthrough came as a shipwrecked marine in 1952’s Islands of Desire, with other popular roles including a brother seeking revenge in 1956’s The Burning Hills and a baseball fan in 1958’s Damn Yankees.

He appeared in about 50 films in total, including That Kind of Woman, The Pleasure of His Company, They Came to Cordura and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Zachary Quinto, pictured with Hunter in June, is co-producing a film about him

For all his credits, Hunter expressed disappointment about how his career developed.

“No one took me seriously,” he told the New York Times in 2003. “I wanted so much to be accepted as an actor.”

After his movie career waned, he turned to television and Broadway. In 2005 he published an autobiography called Tab Hunter Confidential.

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