Legendary Hollywood actor Tab Hunter has died. The Damn Yankees! actor was 86-years-old and died on Sunday, July 8 as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. The star was just three days shy of his 87th birthday when he passed.
Hunter, the chiseled 1950s heartthrob who portrayed Joe Hardy in the Damn Yankees! died in Santa Barbara from a blood clot that caused a heart attack. Allan Glaser, Hunter’s partner of more than three decades, told The Hollywood Reporter that his passing was “unexpected and sudden.”
Hunter beat out both James Dean and Paul Newman to portray a young Marine in his first big film Battle Cry in 1955. After that, Warner Bros. picked up his option and signed him to a seven-year contract, and he appeared in The Girl He Left Behind (1956) and Burning Hills (1956), according to THR.
Perhaps Hunter’s best-known role was that of Washington Senators slugger Hardy in the film adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical Damn Yankees! in 1958. The actor was also a sometime recording star, his version of the tune “Young Love” for Dot Records in 1957 reached No. 1 and stayed there for six weeks.
It was well-known Hollywood lore that that studio head Jack Warner was “annoyed” that his studio did not have a record company to capitalize on Hunter’s vocal skills, so he started one.
Hunter was born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11, 1931, in New York City, but later moved to California when he was young. At the age of 15, he entered the Coast Guard after lying about his age. He later pursued an acting career after his time in the service, changing his name to Tab Hunter. He was given the nickname “The Sigh Guy” and from 1955-59 was Warner Bros. top-grossing star.
The actor became an icon for young gay men for years before he confirmed his homosexuality in his autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, published in 2005.
“I thought, ‘Look, get it from the horse’s mouth and not from some horse’s a** after I’m dead and gone,'” he told THR‘s Scott Feinberg in 2015. “I didn’t want someone putting a spin on my life.”
“I never mentioned my sexuality to Warner Bros. at all, and they never mentioned it to me, thank God,” Hunter revealed. The actor was also rumored to have had a long-term relationship with actor Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame.
He also appeared on such shows as Burke’s Law, The Virginian, Cannon, McMillan & Wife, The Six Million Dollar Man, Ellery Queen, The Love Boat, Benson, and Masquerade.