During Hollywood’s Golden Age, being openly gay or bisexual was a career-breaker. In fact, the studios simply wouldn’t allow it. Performers who weren’t straight had to keep quiet or risk everything. Some of them were even pushed into so-called “lavender marriages” – same-sex arrangements that often didn’t work out. But now, the stories of these stars can be told.
20. Montgomery Clift
The handsome Montgomery Clift was a popular actor who seemingly preferred to live as a loner. The star didn’t appear to be interested in the world of Hollywood, and he couldn’t be bothered to attend fancy parties. Clift also didn’t have a girlfriend, despite the fact that plenty of women would have probably been willing.
Clift was – by all accounts – more interested in men. Biographers of the modern era have labelled him gay, though his brother Brooks claimed that he was bisexual. Either way, he reportedly spent much of his life frightened that somebody would find out his secret. According to Vanity Fair, the actor would even ask for scenes to be reshot if he thought he was coming off as feminine.
19. Katharine Hepburn
For years, Katharine Hepburn had an affair with Spencer Tracy, who was married to a woman that his religion prevented him from divorcing. But some think this was a cover-up to hide same-sex relationships that both of them had. In the 2018 documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, it’s claimed that they never actually had a physical relationship.
The documentary also claims that Hepburn was a lesbian, and that “fixer” Scotty Bowers managed to acquire hundreds of woman lovers for the actress during her time in Hollywood. But as for what Hepburn herself ever said about it, in 1981 she told Barbara Walters, “I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man.”
18. Tab Hunter
Gay actor Tab Hunter was outed by the gossip magazine Confidential in 1955 just after he’d appeared in the hit movie Battle Cry. The publication wrote that he had once been arrested at a same-sex “pajama party,” and it used language that would have been considered shockingly homophobic today. Hunter was, of course, horrified.
Six decades later Hunter wrote about that incident for The Hollywood Reporter. He said, “I was – am – gay. That wasn’t the sort of topic that one spoke freely about back then, since it could spell the end of one’s career, but it was the sort of topic that people gossiped about, and there were no shortage of gossips back then, either.”
17. James Dean
It’s long been rumored that James Dean was gay or bisexual. One famous quote attributed to him is, “No, I am not a homosexual. But, I’m also not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.” And people who worked with Dean before his untimely death have shared their own theories over the years.
While accepting a GLAAD award in 2000, Dean’s Giant co-star Elizabeth Taylor told the audience, “All my life I’ve spent a lot of time with gay men – Montgomery Clift, Jimmy Dean, Rock Hudson. I never thought about who they slept with. They were just the people I loved.” So that’s how she saw it, at least.
16. Cary Grant
Cary Grant’s sexuality was the subject of rumors for a long time. He had five different wives throughout his life, but some have claimed that he also had relationships with men. Costume designer Orry-Kelly has said that he had a complicated, allegedly violent on-off relationship with the actor for years. And Grant was in fact one of the pallbearers at Kelly’s funeral.
Grant’s own daughter Jennifer seems not entirely sure about her father’s sexuality. In her 2011 memoir Good Stuff, the latter wrote, “Did dad ever experiment sexually? I don’t know. Have I ever experimented sexually? Have you? If experimentation makes one gay, then my guess is that most of the world is gay.”
15. Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich was the ultimate femme fatale, and she presented an ambiguous sexuality to Hollywood. To modern audiences it may seem much less ambiguous, however. Dietrich even kissed another woman on camera in the 1930 movie Morocco. And she was wearing a tuxedo suit while she did it.
Allegedly, one of Dietrich’s lovers was Greta Garbo. According to Diana McLellan’s 2000 book The Girls: Sappho goes to Hollywood, the pair of them had an affair in 1925 while filming a movie. And it apparently ended so badly that from then on, they’d pretend to have never met.
14. Anthony Perkins
Anthony Perkins – the man who played Norman Bates in the famous horror film Psycho – maintained a very private life. He was gay during a time when it wasn’t acceptable, and he even may have undergone conversion therapy of a sort. In its 1992 obituary for him, the Los Angeles Times described it as “intensive psychotherapy.”
Perkins did eventually marry a woman – Berry Berenson – and had two children with her. In Charles Winecoff’s 1996 book Split Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins, a former lover of the actor, stated, “This was the ‘50s, a public person could not go public, even if he wanted to. And [Perkins] didn’t want to.”
13. Cesar Romero
Cesar Romero was known as the “Latin From Manhattan” and of course as the famous comic-book villain The Joker in the 1960s Batman series. He was gay – something apparently known by lots of his co-stars and producers. It was only audiences and the media who were told otherwise.
In 1966 Romero was interviewed by Boze Hadleigh for his book Hollywood Gays, and he had plenty of stories to tell. According to the former, he had once slept with Desi Arnaz – the husband of Lucille Ball. And Arnaz was allegedly far from the only one. Romero kept things quiet, he said, by making sure that he was spotted with many beautiful actresses.
12. Sal Mineo
Sal Mineo – James Dean’s co-star in Rebel Without a Cause – was bisexual. The atmosphere at the time prevented him from outright saying it, but during a 1972 interview with Boze Hadleigh, he was asked if he “resented the rumors” about him. The actor answered, “Well, no. Because what’s wrong with being bi? Maybe most people are, deep down.”
Eventually, Mineo was able to talk openly about his experiences, and he became an icon for the LGBTQ community. But sadly, the star was murdered at the age of just 37. In 1976 he was killed in a robbery gone wrong, and his killer later said that he didn’t even know him.
11. Tyrone Power
Actor Tyrone Power had three marriages in all; first he wed a French actress named Annabella, then Linda Christian, followed by Deborah Minardos. He reportedly also had an affair with Lana Turner. But there are some pretty strong rumors that he wasn’t straight, and many of them come from people allegedly involved with him.
British actor Bob Monkhouse claimed in his 1994 book Crying with Laughter that Power had once come onto him – only to be turned down. And Errol Flynn’s biographer Charles Highham has claimed that Flynn and Power were lovers. The women in Power’s life always denied the reports, but the latter isn’t around anymore to give a yes or no answer. He sadly died of a heart attack aged 44.
10. Greta Garbo
For many years, Greta Garbo sent letters to an actress named Mimi Pollak. In fact, reportedly it was the latter who came up with the screen name “Garbo” in the first place. And when Garbo’s messages were released in 2005, their relationship definitely seemed to be more on the romantic side.
One 1924 letter sees Garbo write to Pollak, “The letter from you has aroused a storm of longing within me.” And after the latter became a wife and mother a few years later, Garbo wrote, “We cannot help our nature, as God has created it. But I have always thought you and I belonged together.” To many, these letters confirmed the star’s sexuality.
9. Dirk Bogarde
In 1961 Dirk Bogarde played a gay man in the movie Victim. It presented a sad story: a married man discovers that a male lover of his has killed himself, and he gets blackmailed as a result. Bogarde actually rewrote some of the dialogue. It was a controversial film, and it would have been even more so if anyone had known Bogarde himself was reportedly gay.
Bogarde always maintained – even in his memoirs – that he was straight. However, in 2004 his brother Gareth Van den Bogaerde told The Telegraph, “At the time that Dirk was sexually active, the law was such that it could not come out. If it did, he could have gone to prison. It couldn’t be admitted.”
8. Rudolph Valentino
Rudolph Valentino was so popular with the ladies that some reportedly committed suicide upon learning of his death. And he was married two times, though reportedly he never got to consummate the marriage with his first wife Jean Acker. Yet there were always rumors that he was gay.
Some of the claims that Valentino was gay might have started out of spite, and the actor himself always firmly denied it anyway. But some biographers believe there’s a chance that he had affairs with men, and that he was a patron of the gay Torch Club in Los Angeles. Maybe no one will ever be certain.
7. Joan Crawford
Many people think that legendary actress Joan Crawford was part of the LGBTQ community. She had affairs – so the rumors say – with stars including Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. She might even have appeared in a lesbian pornographic film which ended up being destroyed. But Crawford’s daughter has revealed some of the truth.
In 2010 the actress’ adopted daughter Christina told Joy Behar, “In those days, people didn’t come out of the closet. Everybody knew it, but it wasn’t public information. And then the studios completely controlled all the publicity… I think she was bisexual. That’s what I think.” Whatever Crawford’s exact sexuality was, Christina claimed that her mother had been in relationships with women.
6. Alec Guinness
The man who famously played Obi-Wan Kenobi was almost certainly bisexual. However, according to people who knew him, the star was unhappy about his sexuality. According to the BBC, the actor was even once charged for what was then called “a homosexual act,” but he was able to keep it quiet.
In 2014 the gay actor Ian McKellan spoke at a Pride gala about Guinness. He said that the latter had told him, “You really should not, as a leading actor, have anything to do with anything political, especially anything as dirty as homosexuality.” But now times have changed so much that Guinness is beloved partly because of – rather than despite – his bisexuality.
5. Vincent Price
There were always rumors about Vincent Price’s sexuality; so many, in fact, that his daughter Victoria had to fend off fans asking her about it. He had gay friends, that much was true. However, there was a sense in which she didn’t actually know for certain, because he never confirmed anything even to her.
But in 2015 Victoria Price told Boom Magazine, “I would like to say something here because I might as well. I am as close to certain as I can be that my dad had physically intimate relationships with men.” And she added, “I know for 100 percent fact that my dad was completely loving and supportive of [LGBTQ] people.”
4. Spencer Tracy
In the 2018 documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood – which is based on the memoirs of Scotty Bowers – Spencer Tracy’s name comes up a lot. In the film, as in the book, Tracy is listed as one of the eponymous actor’s lovers. According to Bowers himself, the star would sleep with him and then in the morning act like it never happened.
As for the famous relationship between Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, many people seem to believe it was all a front. In 2015 screenwriter Larry Kramer told The Hollywood Reporter that he thought Tracy and Hepburn were paired together by movie producers anxious to avoid scandal. According to him, “Everyone in Hollywood knows this is true.”
3. Marlon Brando
A number of people have claimed that Marlon Brando had male lovers. In one book – 2009’s The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando – author William J. Mann wrote that the famous movie star “was a man utterly at ease with his fluid sexuality, someone who blithely disregarded the binaries of love and gender.”
And one of those lovers was probably comedian Richard Pryor. In 2018 Quincy Jones claimed in an interview with New York Magazine that Brando would “f*** anything… James Baldwin. Richard Pryor. Marvin Gaye.” Whether the actor slept with the other two men is unknown, but Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee confirmed that yes, Brando and Pryor had been in a relationship.
2. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe actually spoke about her own sexuality openly in the past. She wrote in her 1954 biography, “A man who had kissed me once had said it was very possible that I was a lesbian because apparently I had no response to males – meaning him. I didn’t contradict him because I didn’t know what I was… Now, having fallen in love, I knew what I was. It wasn’t a lesbian.”
Monroe may have been bisexual, however. A rumor persisted for years that she was in a romantic relationship with her drama coach Natasha Lytess. In 1950 Monroe even moved in with her. Allegedly, around that point Monroe told a friend that she and Lytess were indeed sleeping with each other, but no one knows the truth so far.
1. Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson is among the most famous of Hollywood’s closeted gay stars. Right from the beginning – so the story goes – he was warned to never show the slightest sign of his true sexuality. Apparently, he was told to straighten his hips, never cross his legs, and use a deep voice. But producers still worried, so they married him off.
Hudson entered a lavender marriage with the aspiring actress Phyllis Gates. But the relationship didn’t last. Hudson continued his career, but sadly he never got the chance to publicly come out. He died of complications from AIDs in 1985. Yet such was his fame and popularity, he changed people’s perceptions of the condition.