Bruce Davison never became a huge star, but he has worked continually for the past 40 years. For gay movie fans, Davison will always be an icon thanks to his brilliant performance in Longtime Companion — one of the first films to successfully document the AIDS crisis.
Bruce Davison is a great friend to the gay community, having also starred in The Cure and It's My Party, and he is a spokesperson for many AIDS related groups as well as being a board member of Hollywood Supports.
Bruce Davison was born in 1946 in Philadelphia and went to Penn State as an art major before catching the acting bug when he accompanied a friend to an audition. Early Broadway credits included playing John Merrick in The Elephant Man and appearing opposite Jessica Tandy in The Glass Menagerie.
Davison made his film debut in the controversial Last Summer with other newcomers Barbara Hershey and Richard Thomas. This film was a critical hit with Davison getting strong notices for his evil teenager who participates in a rape. Roles in cult films like Short Eyes and The Lathe of Heaven followed.
Davison starred in a few turkeys as well, including the ghastly Lucille Ball version of Mame (the worst movie musical ever made) and the cheesy Willard about a boy and his rats with Ernest Borgnine. (Years later he ran into Borgnine at a party and the late actor called his wife: "This is the young boy who did Willard with me." Davison commented: "For Christ's sake, I'm 65 years old and I'm still a young boy.")
In 1969 Davison got the greatest role of his life in the indie film Longtime Companion. This groundbreaking film follows a number of gay men from the early days of the "gay cancer" to the deaths of many of them. Bruce Davison's finest scene has Davison sitting with his dying partner trying to make him let go and die. Roger Ebert called the scene, "one of the most emotionally affecting scenes in any film on dying.” Bruce Davison is magnificent, and the role won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Davison later spoke of Longtime Companion, saying, "I made $500 a week. It was a low budget indie, but it didn't matter because I just felt that it was something I had to do." Davison also spoke of his great scene: "I was already there. My mother had passed away a few years before, and I think in that scene I was reliving that in a way."
Bruce Davison contined to do fine work in films and television for the next 20 years after Longtime Companion, but this one film and his fantastic performance will always resonate with gay people everywhere.
If you want to see why we love Bruce Davison, check out Longtime Companion. The film is brilliant, and everyone in it is sexy and first rate. However, Bruce Davison steals the film with one of the most compelling scenes in history.