Feb 24, 2013

Robert Stack: Rock Hudson's Bodybuilder Buddy

Boomers remember Robert Stack as the host of the reality series Unsolved Mysteries, or if they're older, Elliot Ness, 1930s federal agent, on The Untouchables (1959-63).  

But during the 1940s and 1950s, he was a heartthrob, with chiseled features and a massive, sculpted chest.  He moved in same 1950s gay Hollywood scene that Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, and Rock Hudson belonged to, and in spite of his long marriage and reputed affair with Elizabeth Taylor, he was rumored to be gay.

In one of his first roles, Otto Von Ron in The Mortal Storm (1940), Stack plays a gay-vague young man who joins the Nazi party .

And during the 1950s he played several homoromantic parts, such as the noir House of Bamboo (1955).  His undercover cop Eddie Spanner goes to Japan, where he draws the attention of syndicate boss Sandy Dawson (Robert Ryan)

Or The Tarnished Angels (1957), about an intense, passionate friendship between pilot Roger Schuman (Stack) and journalist Burke Devlin (Rock Hudson, right)

The Untouchables led to a series of "tough guy" roles in dramas like Is Paris Burning (1966), Action Man (1967), The Name of the Game (1968-71), and Strike Force (1981-82)..  But he didn't skimp on the buddy-bonding roles, as in the "let's get the POWs out of Vietnam" movie Uncommon Valor (1983). Or the comedy: his self-paroding role in Airplane! (1981) became famous.

Or the gay-positive: in 1985 he played the Dad of the flamboyant Donald on the gay-themed sitcom Brothers.