My childhood television choices have often surprised friends, particularly when I mention my fondness for “Number 96,” the classic Australian soap opera that originally aired from 1972 to 1977.
Despite the show’s inclusion of numerous “adult themes,” my parents didn’t seem overly concerned about my viewing habits, even during the years when I was roughly eight to twelve years old. In fact, I often enjoyed watching it with my mum before bedtime.
There was only one episode that raised their eyebrows – it featured the first full female frontal nudity, but our local station promptly censored the entire scene. Besides, I wasn’t particularly intrigued by that aspect, even at that age.
Instead, I found myself more captivated by other TV personalities such as Will Robinson from “Lost In Space,” David Cassidy, the Australian pop singer Jamie Redfern, and the legendary Rock Hudson. They were my teenage crushes, not Abigail.
Every Saturday night, our local TV station ran a series of mystery movies, including classics like “Columbo”, “McLeod” and “McMillan and Wife.” Watching these shows together with my mum was a cherished ritual.
Among all these shows, my absolute favorite was “McMillan and Wife,” which starred Susan Saint James and Rock Hudson as a husband-and-wife crime-fighting duo.
In preparation for viewing the new documentary, “Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed,” I watched an episode of “McMillan and Wife” on Youtube today. It was the one where Sally (Susan) discovers a dead body in her relocated furnishings, only to have it disappear almost immediately. As she and Mac (Rock) began to uncover the criminals involved, Sally finds herself in a similar life-threatening situation.
Fifty years on, it doesn’t quite hold up compared to today’s programs, but it was still good fun to find almost every episode of the series is available in full.
At the core of the documentary is the story of a Rock as a closeted gay man who is eventually forced to come out due to his AIDS diagnosis. The documentary reveals that Rock was anything but closeted in his personal life. Despite his sham heterosexual marriage, the documentary shows he also lived with several men throughout his life and his homosexuality was an open secret. Newspaper headlines of the time continually alluded to his homosexuality.
The documentary portrays a life filled with friendships with lots of “ordinary people”, as well as legendary Hollywood figures like Elizabeth Taylor and Nancy Reagan. Rock Hudson is described as an “old-style” Republican. The documentary also features an audio interview with Linda Evans, his co-star in Dynasty, Famously they had an on-screen kiss after he had been diagnosed with AIDS, leading to lots of international headlines, and lots of concern on the program’s set, though not for Linda.
It wasn’t until his AIDS diagnosis that he came out as gay, albeit somewhat reluctantly. The conclusion of the documentary is that this made a significant difference to people both individually and for AIDS fundraising campaigns generally. The author, Armistead Maupin is amongst those featured in the documentary who talks about the significance of what happened with Rock on an international level. We also learned they had a rather “unsuccessful” sexual encounter.
We learn many intriguing aspects of his life, with a widespread belief that he was basically a good person, and that he had a preference for men who were “gifted.”
The documentary is a fascinating piece of filmmaking, interspersing scenes from his films, audio interviews, and archive material. I watched the film with my friend Graeme, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Not too long, not too short, and with enough meat on the bones to make it more than a regular Hollywood bio-pic.