The documentaries at this year's Flare have been of particularly high quality, surprising, fascinating and touching in turn.Tab Hunter's story is no less so. A man seemingly born with exactly the right features at exactly the right time, there was a point in the 1950's when he dominated American film and TV.
In Tab Hunter Confidential, Jeffrey Schwartz (I am Devine) has somehow managed to get Hunter to talk through his career and the effects his sexual orientation had upon it. I say 'somehow' because two things come through loud and proud in this wonderfully intimate movie - 1. Hunter is an incredibly private person (something that must be almost impossible to reconcile with a career such as his) and 2. Hunter is one of the most decent people you'll find in Hollywood. Or probably anywhere else for that matter.
Schwartz connects the dots in Hunter's life with a range of talking heads from the big names of the time (Robert Wagner, Debbie Reynolds, Venetia Stevenson), playful animated stills, an extensive interview with the man himself and later, his long term partner Allan Glaser and current LGBT icons from Hollywood (George Takei, Portia de Rossi). He also manages to shoehorn in a comment from Clint Eastwood.
This is a meticulously put together documentary, taking in Hunter's struggle to stay in the closet, the bizarre 'gentleman's agreement' of Hollywood in the 50's, his ultimate move away from the Warner Brother's studio (ironically, nothing to do with his sexuality), time in the wilderness and ultimately his finding happiness with Glaser. It's a superbly uplifting tale and one that, almost tangentially gets to the heart of one of the real remaining issues with LGBT life - why do we still require people to come out? If, like Hunter, you're not predisposed to talk about your private life, irrespective of your sexual orientation, why should you be required to do it anyway, just because you're gay?
Heartwarming, insightful, thoughtful and playful, Tab Hunter Confidential is a fitting chronicle of a legend of the studio system and a reminder that even the phrase 'coming out' is obnoxious to many people who, quite rightly, feel they shouldn't be obliged to go through such a process.. Also, I don't care what persuasion you are, Tab is hot.