When Rock Hudson died of AIDS in 1985 his homosexuality was finally and permanently public. Rock had made a career playing the full blooded and often Chauvinistic American male, perhaps a deliberate choice so that no one would suspect his double life. Even when he changed his birth name from Roy Scherer he picked the he-man stage name of Rock Hudson. His sexual revelation before his death was devastating to his back catalog of movies and television shows that depended on the audience buying his male virility. For instance, you no longer buy that he is falling for Doris Day in the romantic comedy “Pillow Talk” but is more likely planning a secret rendezvous with co-star Tony Randall. (Seems like every actor who fell for Doris in her movies later came out of the closet.)
While knowing that Rock is gay can have a negative effect on watching his old movies, it can also add unintentional humor. Such is the case in the Howard Hawks 1964 snoozefest Man’s Favorite Sport. The plot has Rock playing Roger Willoughby, a popular salesman in the fisherman section of Abercrombie & Fitch who is so renowned for his tips that he has written a book on how to successfully fish. Enter annoying woman Abigail Page ( Paula Prentiss ) and her equally annoying friend ‘Easy’ Mueller ( Maria Perschy ) who are the new PR women for the company and have come up with a publicity stunt to enter Roger in an annual fishing contest. Roger resists entering the contest because he has some sort of deep dark secret. Here lies much of the unintentional humor, that is until his confides to Abigail that he has never really fished before in his life and really knows nothing about the sport. A big unintentional joke has him saying how much he can’t even stand the smell of fish. Still determined to enter Roger in the contest Abigail blackmails him by threatening to tell his boss that he has been a fraud all these years. Roger reluctantly enters the contest and heads up to the fishing lodge where he immediately makes an acquaintance of John Screaming Eagle (played by white character actor Norman Alden), a politically incorrect Native American who scams tourists into buying fake Indian artifacts, such as Custer’s scalp (for $20). Even though Screaming Eagle inevitably drops his broken English accent and admits to Roger that he puts it on just for the tourists, his character is an insult to all Native Americans. Worst of all his character was not even funny. One could say the same for the rest of the movie.
Hawks resorts to predictable light slapstick and forced farce for humor, as well as portraying all women as ultimately clumsy and stupid. Predictably Roger ends up falling into the water every time he is within inches of the lake, and predictably he keeps accidentally catching fish large enough for him to surge to first place in the competition. Every bit of humor falls flat, even a gag where a bear ends up riding off on Roger’s moped. The film’s one saving grace is the unintentional humor of now knowing Rock was gay. The opening theme song goes on an on about how out of all the sports man participates in that his favorite sport is women. Not so with Rock. Inquiries into if he is single and where his so called fiance is takes on a completely different meaning. The movie’s premise of Rock not being the man he claimed he was also results in a few unintentional giggles. Otherwise this movie is a dull formula ’60s comedy.
However, this movie does have an outstanding fetish scene that makes it a classic in that particular genre. Twenty-nine minutes into the movie Paula Prentiss and Maria Perschy are inexplicably scuba diving in the lake. Upon hearing that Rock is attempting to go camping they decide to sneak up on him and watch him attempt to set up a tent. A slight break from the girls while they are swimming over for some forced slapstick where Rock keeps getting his feet stuck in buckets that he has placed for no apparent reason in various spots next to his car. The girls emerge from the water, watch Rock from behind the bushes, and eventually have a conversation with him. They are on screen in their scuba outfits for a goodly amount of time, and how stunning those outfits are. What appears to be black rubber wetsuits with the zip up front, both glistening wet, presumably because they both just emerged from the water, but more likely that they were oiled down on the set. The only drawback here is that the girls are both wearing swimming caps, but one hardly notices as the wetsuits are form fitting, and they both have fabulous forms to fit. That scene alone is worth the price of admission, but there are a few others worth mentioning. At 45 minutes Paula is wearing black leather pants and a tight red turtleneck shirt, although for most of the scene it is obscured by a fur coat. At 48 minutes Paula is wearing shiny greenish rubber waders over a yellow blouse that gets partially soaked when she helps Rock remove a fish from a hook. A few minutes later, 52 minutes into the movie in fact, both Paula and Maria are having a conversation with Rock when it begins to rain and slowly soaks their blouses until they are transparent. Since this is a ’60s movie both actresses are facing away from the camera and only turn towards the screen when they have already covered their chest with their hands. The only one who gets to enjoy the view is Rock, but as already pointed out it is a view he did not care for. at 54 minutes Paula is wearing a leather apron as she attempts to give Rock a cast for his arm, resulting in the apron getting messy by the end of the scene. And at one hour 11 minutes Maria shows up wearing a red raincoat which is either plastic or rubber, and which appears to have some sort of lacework in the front, but that could also just be a weird configuration of pull strings for the hood.