26 July 2019 | ppilf
Should have cast Steve McQueen or Tony Curtis as Red
I first saw this film around 1968 when I was age sixteen, long before Tab Hunter came out of the closet. I remember the strong impression I had that he looked unnatural and phony in this part. To me he seemed robot-like, lacking passion and natural mannerisms. But most of all it was that empty doe-eyed radar stare that he locked on Sophia Loren's face in every scene with her. That would've driven me crazy on set. Hunter had zero chemistry with Loren. After the movie I said to my friends, "Nobody will ever convince me that Tab Hunter was a hot leading man or a teen heart throb in the 1950s, this guy wouldn't know what to do with Sophia Loren if he had her in bed". I contrasted his performance with that of Paul Newman in 'Hud' and 'The Hustler'; now there's great acting and natural cool, there's your leading man.
Sophia Loren disowned this film when it was released in 1959. Tab Hunter said it was his favorite film. I knew Hunter was gay long before he came out, but even Montgomery Clift and James Dean were good leading men, so it wasn't the fact that he was gay. Young Tab Hunter simply didn't have the acting skill or the natural screen talent to play the part of Red. Some people claim that he was supposed to have bad chemistry with Loren in this film, but that's just a feeble excuse. Maybe he was supposed to be inexperienced and a bit naïve, but not have bad chemistry, and he most certainly wasn't supposed to do a bad job of acting with Loren. My critique remains the same now as it did in 1968. I agree with Sophia Loren and the critics of 1959, who felt that casting Tab Hunter as Red was the primary cause of this film's failure. I think Loren's performance was outstanding, the other actors performances and the other production aspects of this film were quite good.
Although I thought Tab Hunter was poor in this film and other films of his youth, I became something of a fan of his in his later life. He did some stage acting and made some nutty films later. But I thought he grew into a fair actor and a very good author as he got older, and he became a more 'real' person. When he came out as gay, of course, he became more comfortable and much happier in life. He co-wrote a #1 best seller autobiography published in 2005. In the book he revealed that he was miserable and felt like a misfit throughout his entire youth, and felt he didn't belong in the Hollywood film star business. To me that fact was very transparent. Gay was very unacceptable then, was treated as a mental disease, and was even against the law in some states. I can't imagine the suffering that must have caused members of the gay community.