Vintage Hunk: Guy Madison
Guy Madison was one of the hottest young actors of the 1940s. Blessed with a beautiful face and physique (and marginal talent), Madison burst on to the movie scene in 1944's Since You Went Away. This David O. Selznick 3-hour opus was about the American home front during World War II. It is the story of the Hiltons— with Claudette Colbert as mom to daughters Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple.
Madison had a two-minute bit at a bowling alley and a bus stop. He played a lonely soldier who Jennifer Jones and on-screen boyfriend Robert Walker (off-screen divorced husband) befriend during this film's interminable length.
This tiny scene had teenage girls writing thousands of fan letters wanting to know who this handsome hunk was.
Born Robert Moseley, the actor was renamed Guy Madison by infamous gay talent scout Henry Willson, who "discovered" him while the young Navy cadet was attending a radio broadcast in Hollywood. Henry Willson would later discover and name Rock Hudson, Troy Donahue, Tab Hunter, and Rory Calhoun, among others. According to Robert Hofler's recent book about the infamous Mr. Willson (The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson), he mostly picked gay men and sampled the merchandise as part of the auditioning process. The book states that Madison was one of these, and even alleges a hot sex scene in a car during a rainstorm in which Rory Calhoun is screwing Madison.
(As this book is so sketchily documented, most of the scurrilous stories cannot be substantiated. But it's still fun to fantasize about! And, lest we forget, Henry Willson's secretary was the bride chosen by Rock Hudson during his brief marriage to counter the rampant gay rumors that were swirling about him as he became a star in the 1950's.)
With the outpouring of fan mail, O' Selznick signed Madison to a contract. His first starring movie was Till the End of Time, in which he played one of three returning servicemen (Robert Mitchum and Bill Williams were the other two) who come home and try to readjust to peacetime America. This cut-rate version of The Best Years of Our Lives had Madison take up with a wartime widow who drinks and sleeps around. The casting of Dorothy McGuire in this part did not help the believability of this soapy plot. The critics descended on this turkey with knives flashing, calling Madison wooden and inept. His follow-up film Honeymoon with Shirley Temple was equally panned by one and all.
Madison's movie career was on the wane when he married starlet Gail Russell. The gorgeous Russell had starred in such hits as The Uninvited and Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. But her career was on the skids due to her increasing dependence on alcohol. The lovely and talented Ms. Russell was intensely shy and totally lacking in self-confidence. She turned to alcohol to help her during filming. The marriage lasted 5 years and they were divorced when Madison could no longer deal with Russell's problems.
In the early ‘50s Madison's fortunes improved as he starred in the hit TV series The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok. After this series ended Madison married and divorced again (with 3 daughters), and went to Europe where he did a bunch of low budget Italian films. He died in 1996.
No one could ever say Guy Madison was a good actor, but anyone looking at his photos and footage from his first movies would agree that he was one gorgeous hunk. If only he had the talent to go with it. Regardless, Madison was able to parlay his God-given gifts into a career that lasted over twenty years.