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FilmOut Kicks Off Friday With California Premiere of ‘Tab Hunter Confidential’

Fifties heartthrob talks about the Hollywood studio system and coming out

Actor and 50s heartthrob Tab Hunter is the subject of the new documentary

Credit: Allan Glaser Productions

Above: Actor and 50s heartthrob Tab Hunter is the subject of the new documentary "Tab Hunter Confidential," which opens the 17th Annual FilmOut on Friday, May 29 at The Observatory North Park.

Tab Hunter, actor and author

Jeffrey Schwarz, director, "Tab Hunter Confidential"

Beth Accomando, film critic, KPBS


KPBS film critic Beth Accomando previews the 17th Annual FilmOut.


This Friday, FilmOut, San Diego’s LGBT Film Festival, kicks off at The Observatory North Park with the documentary "Tab Hunter Confidential."

Tab Hunter was a hunky heartthrob in the 1950s. In fact, he was dubbed "The Sigh Guy" for making teenage girls swoon and being the clean cut boy next door that mothers would be happy to have their daughters bring home. But what his female fans didn’t know was that he was also gay.

FilmOut will host the California premiere of "Tab Hunter Confidential" at 6 p.m. Friday where organizers will also present the actor with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Hunter will then partake in a post-screening Q&A.

Younger generations may not remember Tab Hunter, or may only know of him from his roles in John Waters' "Polyester" or "Grease 2." But Hunter was impossibly good-looking — dreamy blue eyes, perfect blonde hair and a smile that could charm anyone. He rose to fame just as the Hollywood studio system was beginning to fade. He became a star in the 1950s mostly playing All-American, heroic, and romantic types in films such as "Battle Cry," "The Sea Chase," and "Lafayette Escadrille."

"Tab Hunter Confidential" Trailer

But what the documentary (which was produced by Hunter's partner Allan Glaser) shows is that while Hollywood may not have taken him seriously, he took his profession seriously and always strove to better himself. Jeffrey Schwarz directed the documentary that's based on the actor’s memoir of the same name. Schwarz was familiar with Tab Hunter because of the Waters cult film "Polyester" but in researching the film he discovered films that cast the actor against type, as in “Gunman’s Walk” where Schwarz said Hunter played a psychopath and "was so good" you wonder why Hollywood didn't give him more roles like that. Hunter said that he ended up doing some of his best work on live television as in "Portrait of a Murderer" for Arthur Penn and CBS' "Playhouse 90."

"Gunman's Walk" Trailer

But if Schwarz had to pick one film that was representative of Hunter’s career it would be one that showcased his charm and irresistible sweetness, such as “Damn Yankees.” Schwarz said that film was particularly interesting because the character that Hunter plays is a man with a secret who is forced to lead a dual life, something that Hunter himself was doing.

"Damn Yankees!" Trailer

Hunter was interviewed by phone from his Santa Barbara home where he still gets up early every morning to visit his stables. Hunter, who will be 84 this year, said he recently stopped riding but he will never give up his horses.

The 17th Annual FilmOut will showcase 30 films, and runs Friday through Sunday at The Observatory North Park (formerly The North Park Theater). "Tab Hunter Confidential" screens with the short films, "Bendik and The Monster" and "Tom in America." There will be an after-party on opening night at Sunset Temple.

Tickets are available online here.

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