Hollywood’s Henry Wilson lived a far more tragic life compared to his Netflix Character
In Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series Hollywood, Jim Parsons plays the character of prominent agent Henry Wilson, but to what extent is Hollywood’s depiction really true? A fair share of it, actually, if we look back at the real Wilson’s life as an agent to the stars- particularly Rock Hudson.
The fictional character Wilson is an impulsive, closeted gay man who seemingly targets on inexperienced actors. He finds Hudson- when he’s still Roy Fitzgerald – and changes his name, his teeth and his look to groom him to be a mainstay in Hollywood. Aware of Hudson being in the closet, he even sleeps with him. But in the show, Wilson loses command over Hudson when the actor decides to go forward with his screenwriter boyfriend. After treating his client like garbage and pushing him away, a year later he returns groveling back and saying he’s changed and has in a stable relationship with a partner, is making changes, has stopped drinking, and shopping around a film on a gay pair.
Till Hudson’s coming out plot line, Wilson’s representation is on point to how the real Wilson lived his life in Hollywood. Wilson began his Hollywood career as a writer prior to becoming an agent. He then “create” Rock Hudson, by altering his name, strengthening him and fixing his teeth. He did this with many other artists too, including, Yale Summers, Guy Madison, and Tab Hunter. Although, his career was kind of distasteful, according to Mark Griffin- writer of All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson. In 2018, Griffin told NPR, “I think it was fairly well-known that if you were a Henry Willson client, as Tony Curtis once expressed it, you probably had to sexually express yourself to Henry.” However, it was agreed amongst the Hollywood elite that Wilson the man to make gay actors seem straight.
Wilson went far to assist Hudson – who remained publicly closeted for his lifetime – appear straight that he arranged a marriage of his elite client and his secretary Phyllis Gates in 1955. Gates registered for separation after three years, and Wilson was never able to compel Hudson into another marriage.
Hudson and Wilson kept working together for years until Hudson’s star rose higher than Wilson. As claimed by Vanity Fair, Willson’s extreme drinking led him to be questionable for Hudson and the actor ended up dismissing him in 1966. Thereon, Wilson walked on a descending spiral over 10 years, losing all that he had because of his drinking issue and ultimately died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1978. He died bankrupt, alone, and was buried in an unnoted grave.
His real-life conclusion with Hudson did have some common grounds for Hollywood. In Murphy’s show, following Wilson apologizes to Hudson for everything that he made him face, Hudson says that he can’t forgive him. Despite that, Hudson opens up about his dream of making a film based on a gay love plot for Hudson to star in as a punishment for his wrongdoings, presumably patching things between the two. None of this occurred in real life, Hudson extended a sort of olive branch toward the end of Wilson’s life: he gave him $20,000 to support him after losing everything and stated, “That’s it. I don’t owe Henry anything anymore.”