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The death of Rock Hudson was rough for the world. The charismatic leading man died of AIDS in 1985. Elizabeth Taylor bid him a touching goodbye as he lay dying. Here’s what happened.
Friends For Decades
By the mid-1950s, both Hudson and Taylor were already megastars. She was a child actress turning toward progressively more serious and meaty roles, while Hudson became a star thanks to 1954’s Magnificent Obsession. Their paths crossed on-screen in Giant.
The 1956 western was also the final film of James Dean. The film was a critical darling and was Warner Brothers’ most lucrative film until Superman. It received nine Academy Award nominations, including one win for director George Stevens.
Hudson and Taylor would only work again one more time: the 1980 ensemble mystery The Mirror Crack’d. The cast also featured Angela Lansbury, a young Pierce Brosnan, Tony Curtis, and Kim Novak to name only a few. While the Knives Out-esque cast is impressive, it didn’t make an impact at the box office.
While they only worked together a few times, Hudson and Taylor remained very close friends their entire life. Both were routinely photographed together at dinners and Award shows. Taylor knew the truth about Hudson’s homosexuality but helped him shield it from a leering public.
Husdon contracted HIV in June 1984, and from there, his health deteriorated. One year later, the public learned he had AIDS, making him among the first mainstream celebrities to receive the diagnosis. Within months, he was receiving hospice care.
In an interview with Closer, Hudson’s doctor Michael Gottlieb discussed Taylor’s final visit with Hudson. Taylor had to be snuck into the hospital through the back door. Gottlieb explains, “I picked Elizabeth up in my old station wagon and we managed to get in through a loading dock at the back of the hospital to see him.”
Work In His Honor
Taylor went through all that trouble so she could say goodbye to Hudson one last time. Two of her assistants had already succumbed to AIDS, and Hudson’s death directly led to her becoming a vocal advocate for folks with AIDS.
Together with Dr. Gottleib, Taylor co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and later the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. She helped raised over $270 million for research and was a devoted philanthropist in the last decades of her life. She was able to use her celebrity to help sway Ronald Reagan into mentioning the disease publicly for the first time. It’s deeply touching to imagine Taylor rushing to Hudson’s side at the end of his life, and devoting the rest of hers to his memory.
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