Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hurd Hatfield


Throughout his career in film, television and stage productions, American actor Hurd Hatfield (1918-1998) was always associated with the Hollywood film, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945). Playing the title role in Oscar Wilde’s tale of a vain young man who trades his soul to retain his youthful appearance made him a star. That fame was a double edged sword, however, because he was unable to shake the notoriety of the role, and just five years later he was appearing in a string of B-movies. 

"I have been haunted by 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'," he said. "New York, London, anywhere I'm making a personal appearance, people will talk about other things, but they always get back to Dorian Gray."

Born in New York City in 1918, Hatfield (1951 photo at right) won a scholarship to study acting at Michael Chekhov's Dartington Hall company in Devon, England. Returning to the United States with Chekhov's company in 1939, he began a sexual affair with fellow troupe member Yul Brynner a year later. Unlike Brynner, however, Hatfield remained exclusively homosexual his entire life. During the time the company was playing on the West Coast, Hatfield was signed by MGM and within a year director Albert Lewin’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was released in movie houses.

It is somewhat astonishing that Hatfield was even cast in the role, having made only one film prior to “Dorian Gray”. At any rate, he was thrust into the big leagues of a spare-no-expense production, and among his co-stars were the likes of Angela Lansbury, George Sanders, Donna Reed, Richard Fraser and Peter Lawford. This movie still is of Hatfield portraying Dorian Gray:


Hatfield's passive, somewhat delicate and androgynous performance was delivered with little feeling, as apparently intended, but the film’s huge success did not ignite his career. "The film didn't make me popular in Hollywood," he commented later. "It was too odd, too avant- garde, too ahead of its time. The decadence, the hints of bisexuality and so on, made me a leper! Nobody knew I had a sense of humour, and people wouldn't even have lunch with me."

It is telling that his next film for MGM was titled “The Beginning of the End” (1947), a tale of scientists working on the atom bomb. By 1950 Hatfield had decided to return to the stage. In 1952 he appeared on Broadway in Christopher Fry's “Venus Observed”, directed by Laurence Olivier, and the following year played Lord Byron and Don Quixote in Tennessee Williams's “Camino Real”, directed by Elia Kazan. He was Prince Paul in the Broadway production of “Anastasia” (1954), played the title role in Julius Caesar in the inaugural season of the American Shakespeare Festival at Connecticut, Stratford (1955) and appeared as Don John in John Gielgud's legendary production of “Much Ado About Nothing” (1959). Nevertheless, he still couldn’t shake the specter of “Dorian Gray.”

Hatfield returned to Hollywood, notably for two sexually ambivalent roles: the epicene follower of Billy the Kid (Paul Newman) in Arthur Penn's film of Gore Vidal's “The Left-Handed Gun” (1958) and a homosexual antique dealer considered a suspect in “The Boston Strangler” (1968).  He was also cast in two 1965 epics, “King of Kings” and “El Cid”, and in 1986 returned to the screen to play the ailing grandfather in “Crimes of the Heart”. He enjoyed a prolific television career, as well, including appearances in episodes of “Suspense”, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Murder She Wrote.”



Having been introduced to Ireland by his colleague Angela Lansbury, by the 1970s Hatfield was commuting between a 17th century estate in Ireland and his house on Long Island for acting assignments. Ballinterry House (above), his home in Ireland’s County Cork, was filled with the antiques and art he loved to collect. It was there that Hatfield died peacefully in his sleep at age 81, soon after having Christmas dinner with friends. Michael Garvey and Ann O'Sullivan now run Ballinterry House as a high end bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Oddly, their promotional materials make no mention of Hatfield's ownership.

A series of clips from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”


18 comments:

  1. One of my favorite actors of all time. Vastly underrated. Physically beautiful. It is true though that he never could shake Dorian Gray. It is what I will always remember him for. An amazing movie role to say the least.

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  2. I couldn't agree more. Brilliant film and a great actor, shame he was typecast.

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    1. I agree also such a good actor to be type cast

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  3. The languid performances of George Sanders and Hurd Hatfield are like watching two panthers circle one another. Sleek, fluid, and very, very dangerous.

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    1. George Sanders the predator and Hurd Hatfield the prey, that is how I interpreted the interaction. The underpinnings of George Sanders assertive and interest in Hurd Hatfield was to seduce him. Promoting the virtues of spontaneous pleasures and physical gratification. Hurd Hatfield appeard gay in the role, oddly he was cast as a Romeo who wandered into drugs and bisexuality. Totally devoid of moral and ethical pinnings. (Not disimilar to what actors experience in Hollywood), That's what made the movie so compelling for audiences, remember at the time religious fundalmentalism reigned throughout most of the country. This was shocking, a deal struck with an invisible evil presence, once own conscious.

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  4. Yes, typecasting is 'rough'........he could never shake the image of Dorian Gray anymore than Anthony Hopkins can shake the image of Dr. Hannibal Lector.

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  5. Wonderful post. I've learned so much here, but....Where'd you get the information that Hurd Hatfield was gay, and did he really had an affair with Yul Brynner????

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. What an ungracious thing to say to someone who thought your post was "wonderful" and was curious to know more. One could argue that the commenter WAS using google; if you google 'Hurd Hatfield gay,' this post is the first hit.

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    3. Full apologies from your blogger. I was responding to the wrong comment.

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  6. He was perfect in that roll and no could pay it but him. It needed someone with great talent to make it a cult favorite. I never miss it, or anything I see his name in. It's a shame he couldn't use that part to springboard to more, he was so different and unique.

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  7. Difficult to imagine Yul Brynner as being homosexual. That was my first thought. Thinking a little more, not so much. I agree, Hurd Hatfield did not get the recognition he deserved as an actor. He should have been much more a star than he was.

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    1. Although Yul Brynner had homosexual relations, he was not homosexual. He was bisexual.

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  8. Hollywood is so satanic it's disgusting! The Picture of Dorian Gray used to be one of my favorites as I had no idea about Hollywood's deep seeded occult roots. Now that I look back, the film is filled with occult symbolism and the latest version is an obvious promotion of witchcraft, voodoo, satanism. It's truly sick, depraved and twisted.

    So sad that Oscar Wilde would waste a gift God gave him allowing the devil to work through him. Such a talented, gifted writer. In the past, I never considered The Picture of Dorian Gray to be a "horror" film, but I guess it is one. Now that I do know better, I no longer watch horror.

    I have so much compassion for celebrities. I feel like they are victims of Hollywood's satanic depravity. Poor Hurd. I don't think he was, nor do I think most celebrities are truly happy. how can anyone be when they become a part of something where the people are blind enough to allow themselves to be led by a wicked, foolish beast called Satan. Lucifer is not light, Jesus Christ is, And He loves all!

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  9. If anyone's interested, here's some REALLY FUN tidbits on Hurd Hatfield:

    Hurd in DRAG: http://hurdhatfieldluv.tumblr.com/post/109697919708/hurd-hatfield-in-drag-i-just-wanna-let-you

    Hurd's lewd sense of humor: http://hurdhatfieldluv.tumblr.com/post/103910427858/dorian-gray-hurd-hatfield-looks-up-at-lord-henry

    Hurd and Michael Redgrave...the dynamic duo: http://hurdhatfieldluv.tumblr.com/post/115696425218/hurd-hatfield-michael-redgrave-and-angela

    Hurd, a Male MGM Dancer, and Monty Clift ??!!??! : http://hurdhatfieldluv.tumblr.com/post/124003406868/norman-borines-autobiography-dancing-with-the

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  10. Great movie Dorian Gray, saw it on TCM & Hurd Hatfield was very good in the rule! IMHO.

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  11. Hurd Hatfield and his mother, Adele, were family friends when we all lived in Sag Harbor on New York's Long Island. They were lovely people, so elegant and always so beautifully dressed. Whenever he stopped by our house and knocked, my mother would call out, "Who is it?". He always answered, "It is only I, Hurd."

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    1. Hi Diane, In 1968 my Grandparents rented Hurd's Mothers house on Ferry rd. We(the kids) stayed in the upper section and the rest of our family stayed downstairs. We had opened a drawer in one of the desks and found a picture of Hurd in it. A few days later, we were invited to have tea with Mr Hatfield at his Sag Harbor home. I wish I remembered more, but I did enjoy our stay in at his house.

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