Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in “All That Heaven Allows.” A biography of the same name will be discussed by the Lewiston author at Topsham Public Library on Jan. 23. Courtesy

TOPSHAM — Toiling over his heavily researched biography of Rock Hudson in his Lewiston basement for a few years, Mark Griffin had no inkling that his book would form the basis of a major biographical film.

“I was sitting next to my oil burner through all of it,” he said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘how glamorous is this?'”

Released in December 2018, “All that Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson” has received raves from the Boston Globe, the Associated Press and USA Today. It details the life of Hudson, an Oscar-nominated actor who, during the final days of Hollywood’s Golden Age, epitomized heterosexual masculinity, power and charm, all the while hiding his sexuality and authentic self from a highly homophobic society – perhaps the celebrated icon’s greatest performance of all, according to Griffin.

Mark Griffin of Lewiston is author of “All that Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson,” which he will discuss at Topsham Public Library Thursday, Jan. 23. Contributed

The author will discuss his book at Topsham Public Library, 25 Foreside Road, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23. Griffin will also show a 35-minute Hudson documentary he produced and narrated. The library will follow Griffin’s talk with its “February Films with PRIDE!” series. “Boy Erased” will be screened Feb. 6, followed by “Pride” Feb. 13, and “Kinky Boots” Feb. 27. All movies are shown Thursdays at 5:45 p.m.

Universal Pictures has optioned the rights to “All that Heaven Allows” with plans to put it on the big screen, with director-producer Greg Berlanti and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese involved. Production could begin in a year or two.

Griffin looks forward to his book and the film alike, which will introduce Hudson to a new generation.

“I’ve always been a diehard movie buff, ever since the time I was a little whippersnapper,” Griffin said. Catching Hudson’s films from his 1950s-1960s movie heyday, and particularly drawn to melodramas like “Written on the Wind,” “The Tarnished Angels,” “Magnificent Obsession,” and of course “All that Heaven Allows,” he said, “I just felt that Rock Hudson was one Hollywood luminary who was ripe for reassessment.”

With nearly 35 years having passed since the actor’s 1985 death from AIDS, “I really thought it was time to re-examine not only that tragic death, but also this extraordinary life that came before his untimely passing,” Griffin said. “And I also felt that it was time to sort of reclaim him as an American film icon, and take a very close and hopefully comprehensive look at those over 60 feature films that he made in his very short 59 years.”

Griffin did more than 100 interviews with Hudson intimates like Carol Burnett, Joel Grey, Tab Hunter, Piper Laurie, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Osborne, Armistead Maupin, Jack Scalia and Arlene Dahl.

“Within the film industry and in Hollywood circles, it was what we would term now ‘an open secret’ that Hudson was gay, even though he’s romancing Elizabeth Taylor and Doris Day on the silver screen,” Griffin said.

But to unsuspecting movie-goers across the country and world, Hudson’s sexuality was not well known, and his “inadvertent outing” after his AIDS diagnosis in the 1980s shocked many people and tarnished his career for a time, Griffin said. But that tragedy also galvanized people to battle the disease and recognize it as a global pandemic, he noted.

Universal Pictures has optioned Griffin’s book with plans to put it on the big screen. Production could begin in a year or two.

“It’s interesting that as a culture we have evolved in some ways,” he said.

There are “out and proud actors” like Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons, whereas in Hudson’s heyday “nobody was out,” Griffin said. “That would’ve instantly shattered your career; it would have terminated your contract. We have to remember now we live in a world where there are Gay Days at Disneyland, and people are proudly wearing rainbow flags, but back in the 1950s it was pretty much an anti-gay culture,” when two men could be arrested for dancing together in a bar.

More information on Griffin, who also wrote “A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli” and appeared in the documentary “Gene Kelly: To Live and Dance,” can be found at markgriffinauthor.com.

Griffin’s appearance is part of Topsham Public Library’s efforts to promote diversity, Adult Services Librarian Emma Gibbon said.

She hopes that “people come in and learn something different about (Hudson’s) life,” she said. “Mark’s done an incredible amount of research … I think it’ll be a really in-depth look at someone people have seen in films all the time.”

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