Remembering Tab Hunter

(Above: Tab Hunter in a 1950s Gillette commercial. Screenshot from ‘Tab Hunter Confidential’ trailer)

Tab Hunter, who died Sunday at 86, transitioned from a teen idol of the 1950s to a gay icon of the 21st century.

Here’s a quick summary of his career, via the trailer for Tab Hunter Confidential, a 2015 documentary now streaming on Netflix. Non-subscribers can rent it from Vudu for $2.99:

Hunter’s biggest role was as Joe Hardy in the 1958 film version of the Broadway musical Damn Yankees. Here he is in a duet with co-star Gwen Verdon (Lola), via a Twitter post from @DancerOnFilm:

To see Damn Yankees in its entirety, forget about streaming. But you can get a physical version from, Netflix’s video rental service. (Plans start at $4.99 a month, following a one-month free trial.) Other movies Hunter made during his prime years at Warner Bros., such as Battle Cry, The Sea Chase and The Girl He Left Behind (with Natalie Wood),  can be rented from various providers. Vudu, for instance, offers all three of the just-mentioned films for $3.99.

Want to stream Tab Hunter in his prime for free? Warner Bros. was happy to get its teen idol extra exposure by loaning him out for television productions — including the very first episode of the prestige CBS series Playhouse 90, “Forbidden Area.” John Frankenheimer received an Emmy nomination for directing the episode. Rod Serling wrote the script. Charlton Heston and Vincent Price also star. You can stream the show, which aired live in 1956, right here:

Two years later, Hunter returned to Playhouse 90 for “Portrait of a Murderer,” co-starring Geraldine Page and directed by future three-time Oscar nominee Arthur Penn:

Hunter, who in addition to Damn Yankees had a number one record with “Young Love” in 1957, starred in another musical: A live 1959 Hallmark Hall of Fame version of MGM’s Meet Me in St. Louis. Jane Powell co-stars in the CBS show:

Finally, here’s Hunter, post-idol days and perhaps typecast as “The Celebrity,” in the eighth episode of the long-running ABC series Combat!, from 1962:

About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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