May 28, 2015

Guy Madison: the Strong Silent Type

Hollywood hunks of the 1950s were often gay or gay-friendly; whole cadres hung out at talent agent Henry Willson's infamous all-male parties in the Hollywood Hills.  In a studio attempt to quell gay rumors, Willson gave them "manly" names consisting of  a single-syllable (Van, Rock, Tab, Nick, Guy) followed by a recognizable Anglo sirname  (Williams, Hudson, Hunter, Adams, Madison).

Born in 1922, former physique model Guy Madison (second from left) stood out from the crowd of Hollywood hunks by displaying his physique whenever possible.  He had no qualms about shirtless and swimsuit shots and even full frontal nudity.  In fact, he was the inspiration for the term "beefcake," first introduced in 1949.

As an actor, Guy played the strong, silent type in many Westerns of the 1950s, but he is best remembered by the first Boomer generation for The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1951-58).  There was a real Wild Bill, a morally ambiguous lawman and gunfighter who died in 1876, but Guy's Wild Bill was a strictly white-hat proponent of law and order.
Andy Devine, who played his hefty, braying sidekick, went on to star in Andy's Gang on 1950s children's tv.





Hickok was immensely popular among the Ovaltine set.  There were feature films (spliced from the tv series), a radio program, toys, games, and lots of advertising tie-ins.  I haven't seen it, but apparently Wild Bill did a bit of 1950s Western buddy-bonding and wasn't particularly interested in girls.













During the 1960s and 1970s, Guy starred in some Italian sword-and-sandal movies, such as Slave of Rome (1961) and Blood of the Executioner (1963), plus some Westerns and actioners.  He played James Bond-style secret agent Rex Miller in the anti-counterculture LSD: Flesh of the Devil (1967).  But mostly he appeared as himself, a Western icon fondly remembered by millions of Boomer kids.

Although rumored to be gay, Guy was married and divorced twice.  He died in 1996.