Guy Madison’s good looks, sculpted body and innocent charm propelled him into movie stardom. In the picture above, he resembles a more virile James Dean. Yikes, let’s take another look. Frank asks, ok, ok, but do I need to see this guy showering?
Madison was discovered by legendary agent Henry Willson, who later brought us Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter. Willson’s acting charges were said to have reflected his sexual persuasion.
Willson, who came from a wealthy East Coast family, also credited himself for the discovery of Rhonda Fleming and had as clients at one time or another, Lana Turner, Jeanette MacDonald and Ann Sothern.
But Willson’s real attention was focused on his lists of male clients, specifically young, good-looking, all-American guys, wrote Hunter in his well-written 2005 autobiography (coathored by Eddie Muller) Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star.
Added Hunter, Henry believed that young women craved a male equivalent of the pinup stars who’d boosted the troops morale during the war. Acting skill was secondary to chiseled features and a fine physique.
Madison fit the bill nicely. Born Robert Moseley in Bakersfield, California at the beginning of 1922, he worked as a telephone lineman before enlisting in the Coast Guard in 1942.
Willson spotted him when he was in the audience of a 1944 Lux Radio Theater show, and arranged a screen test for producer David Selznick’s Since You Went Away, a romantic drama costarring Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten.
Madison won the role of “Sailor Harold E. Smith,” and his movie and tv career eventually comprising some 65 titles was off and running. Madison’s beefcake appeal quickly became apparent, the fan male poured in and his Hollywood career took off.
By 1955, he had managed above-the-title billing in a number of pictures including 5 Against The House costarring with Kim Novack and Brian Keith for Columbia Pictures. The actor married twice, the first time to actress Gail Russell.
By the Fifties, Madison’s career turned more towards television, notably via Wild Bill Hickok, a 1952 tube series costarring Andy Devine that was revived by ABC in the 1957-58 season when tv westerns surged in popularity.
For movies, Madison shifted his attention to Europe where he starred in a number of spaghetti westerns and war films. (Frank remembers being intrigued at seeing an exhibition in Tokyo some years ago of wall-length one-sheets for various Italian-made westerns with Madison’s name sprawled above the title.)
Madison’s career lasted until 1988, eight years before his death at 74 of emphysema. His career can be summarized by a line in reference to his acting in westerns — “he beat up all the bad guys and somehow kept his good looks.”