Even with the social progress America has made to afford better opportunities and more equal rights for members of the LGBT community, there are still reasons to hesitate when deciding to be openly gay. More gay celebrities are open about their relationships than they have been in years past, but even now, they face backlash. In the era of classic cinema, coming out as gay was an even bigger risk to a celebrity’s career, so it’s not surprising that many famous figures hid their gay relationships. There are rumors about celebrities you might not expect. Some celebrities who also had open straight relationships may have been bisexual or closeted gay.
Cary Grant was married to five different women during his lifetime, but it’s his long-term “friendship” with actor Randolph Scott – with whom he lived on and off for twelve years – that makes people suspect he was closeted bisexual. They became friends early in their careers when both were shooting movies at Paramount Studios, and first lived together shortly thereafter. Grant denied that they were gay, as did his daughter, and Grant even sued Chevy Chase for slander in 1980 for making a joke on TV that implied he was gay. Still, it’s understandable Grant would have wanted to hide that part of his life, even if it was true. No one will ever really know.
Marilyn Monroe’s multiple marriages and rumored affairs with famous married men like the Kennedys are legendary. However, this Hollywood Golden Age sexpot may have been hiding multiple affairs with women. Her long-time friend Peter Lawford claimed that she had multiple lesbian relationships, although he mostly helped her emotionally navigate her straight affairs. Martin Evans, another friend, didn’t know for sure about any lesbian lovers, but he wondered if Monroe even had sex with her husband Jim Dougherty, despite Dougherty’s public boasting of their relations. Psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson, who treated Monroe, said she admitted to never properly experiencing an orgasm with a man.
Perhaps most famously, Rock Hudson was either gay or bisexual and kept it quiet all of his life, even after he contracted AIDS, eventually dying of the illness in 1985. Once married to a woman, Hudson was confirmed by his agent and multiple celebrity friends to have been in homosexual relationships. In fact, in 1955, a magazine threatened to expose his lifestyle and his agent had to stall this by offering more information for the magazine to publish on two other clients of his. At least four (non-celebrity) lovers have been named, but long-time friend Jim Nabors, who was also gay and was Hudson’s housemate for many years, was not actually his lover.
Although Laurence Olivier was famously married to actresses Vivien Leigh, Jill Esmond, and Joan Plowright, there were rumors that he had at least one gay relationship with actor Danny Kaye. Their “bi-curious” relationship was never proven and some people, like journalist and Olivier biographer Terry Coleman, say the relationship wasn’t with Danny Kaye but with another actor, Henry Ainley. In his own 1982 autobiography, Olivier himself even hinted at a “homosexual dalliance,” although he wouldn’t say with whom.
Married to an actress and photographer, Berry Berenson, for almost twenty years, Anthony Perkins had almost exclusively gay relationships until his marriage – including with Rock Hudson, actor Tab Hunter, and composer Stephen Sondheim. French author Patrick Loiseau described him as one of the two great loves of his life.
Tab Hunter dated Anthony Perkins for a number of years and had another closeted fling with actor Roddy McDowall and then a long-term relationship with figure skater Ronnie Robertson. (Hunter himself was a competitive figure skater as a teen.) Eventually, Hunter came out publicly as gay in 2005 – decades after his heyday in the movie industry. He came out in his memoir and has lived with his partner Allan Glaser for over thirty years.
Whether or not these rumors of gay relationships were true, it’s worthwhile to celebrate how far we’ve come in accepting that love takes shape in many forms. While a celebrity’s private life shouldn’t have an impact on how you enjoy his or her movies, shows and music, it can be interesting to think of how the biggest names of yesteryear may have more in common with the LGBT community than most people think.