Jeffrey Hunter

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For the Australian politician, see Jeff Hunter (politician).
Jeffrey Hunter
Jeffrey Hunter Sgt Rutledge.jpg
Born Henry Herman McKinnies, Jr.
(1926-11-25)November 25, 1926
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Died May 27, 1969(1969-05-27) (aged 42)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Intracranial hemorrhage and skull fracture
Resting place
Glen Haven Memorial Park in Sylmar, California
Nationality American
Other names Jeff Hunter
Education Whitefish Bay High School
Alma mater Northwestern University
University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation Actor, producer
Spouse(s) Barbara Rush (m. 1950; div. 1955)
Joan Bartlett (m. 1957; div. 1967)
Emily McLaughlin (m. 1969–69)
Children Four sons, Christopher, Steele, Todd, and Scott

Jeffrey "Jeff" Hunter (November 25, 1926 – May 27, 1969) was an American film and television actor and producer. His most famous roles are as the sidekick to John Wayne's character in The Searchers, as Jesus Christ in the biblical film King of Kings, and as Capt. Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek.

Early life[edit]

Hunter was born Henry Herman “Hank” McKinnies, Jr., in New Orleans, Louisiana, and after 1930 reared in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he graduated from Whitefish Bay High School. He began acting in local theater and radio in his early teens. He served stateside in the United States Navy, in World War II, then from 1946 to 1949 studied theatre at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.[1]

Acting career[edit]

Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley in The Searchers

In 1950, while he was a graduate student in radio at UCLA and appearing in a college play, Hunter was spotted by talent scouts and offered a two-year motion picture contract by 20th Century Fox that was eventually extended to 1959. He made his film debut in a bit part in 1950's Julius Caesar. He later graduated to starring roles in Red Skies of Montana (1952), and Sailor of the King (1953).

A loan-out to co-star with John Wayne in the title roles of the now-classic western The Searchers (1956), began the first of three pictures he made with director John Ford; the other two being The Last Hurrah (1958) starring Spencer Tracy and as lawyer Tom Cantrell in Sergeant Rutledge (1960). The same year as The Searchers, Hunter also co-starred with top-billed Fess Parker in Walt Disney's The Great Locomotive Chase, based on an actual 1862 historical event during the American Civil War. Ironically, according to Parker's Archive of American Television interview, Ford had originally wanted to cast Parker in Hunter's role in The Searchers but Disney refused to loan him out, something Parker didn't hear about until years later; Parker referred to his loss of that part to Jeffrey Hunter as his single biggest career setback.[2]

Ford also recommended Hunter to director Nicholas Ray for the role of Jesus Christ in King of Kings (1961), a difficult part met by critical reaction that ranged from praise to ridicule. (Hunter's youthful matinee-idol looks resulted in the film's being derided as I Was a Teenage Jesus though he was thirty-four when cast in the part.)[3] Joining an all-star cast in the World War II battle epic The Longest Day, Hunter provided a climactic heroic moment playing a sergeant who is killed while leading a successful attempt to breach the defense wall atop Omaha Beach in Normandy.

Having guest-starred on television dramas since the mid-1950s, Hunter was then offered a two-year contract by Warner Bros. studio boss Jack Webb that included starring as circuit-riding Texas lawyer Temple Lea Houston, the youngest son of Sam Houston, in the NBC series Temple Houston (1963–1964), which Hunter's production company co-produced. Jack Elam was his co-star, as gunslinger-turned-marshal George Taggart.[4]

Hunter described the Temple Houston that he sought to emulate as having "many sides to his character. He was a flamboyant orator; he was a bit of a dandy; he was tough; he was gentle; he was an excellent marksman," all features which gave the series greater latitude with a western format. Houston was also described as follows: He would ride, shoot, fight, drink, and love with the best of them and maybe better than most. The modesty that he displays in day-to-day life would disappear as soon as he enters a courtroom, becoming the flamboyant attorney famous throughout the American Southwest."[4]

Temple Houston proved illusory for his long-term career prospects. Hunter thought that the series had found its voice beginning with the twelfth episode, "Enough Rope", by having adopted the light-hearted approach of ABC's former Maverick western series, with James Garner.[5] As Hunter explained the change in format, the series was "conceived in humor and delivered in dead seriousness. Then, about halfway through the season, NBC decided to return to the tongue-in-cheek approach. By that time it was too late. The big joke around town was that the series was about a synagogue in Texas."[4]

Ruta Lee, who guest starred as Lucy Tolliver in "Enough Rope", said of Hunter: "He was one of the prettiest people that ever was put on the screen. God, he was gorgeous."[4] Another Hunter friend, actor Van Williams, a native of Fort Worth, who also guest starred in the series, said: "Things didn't go right for him, and they should have, because if anybody deserved to be a big star, it was Jeffrey Hunter."[4]

In taking the Temple Houston role, Hunter was compelled by a scheduling conflict to bow out of John Ford's final western film, Cheyenne Autumn.[4]

Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in King of Kings

Although Temple Houston did not survive beyond twenty-six weeks, Hunter accepted the lead role of Captain Christopher Pike in "The Cage," the first pilot episode of Star Trek. Clegg Hoyt appeared in this pilot too as Pitcairn, the transporter chief of the fictitious USS Enterprise.[6] Hunter declined to film a second Star Trek pilot requested by NBC in 1965, and decided to concentrate on motion pictures such as Brainstorm.[7][8][9] The footage from the original pilot was subsequently adapted into the later series in a two-part episode called "The Menagerie."[10] Later that year, Hunter filmed the pilot for another NBC series, the espionage thriller Journey Into Fear, which the network did not pick up.[11]

With the demise of the studio contract system in the early 1960s and the outsourcing of much feature production, Hunter, like many other leading men of the 1950s, found work in B movies produced in Italy, Hong Kong, and Mexico, with the occasional television guest part in Hollywood.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Hunter's first marriage from 1950 to 1955 to actress Barbara Rush produced a son, Christopher (born 1952). From 1957 to 1967, Hunter was married to model Dusty Bartlett. He adopted her son, Steele, and the couple had two other children, Todd and Scott. In February 1969, he married actress Emily McLaughlin to whom he remained married until his death some three months later.[12]

Death[edit]

While in Spain in 1969 to film ¡Viva América!, a story of the Chicago Mafia, Hunter was injured in an on-set explosion when a car window near him which had been rigged to explode outward instead accidentally exploded inward.[10] Hunter sustained a serious concussion. According to Hunter's third wife Emily McLaughlin, he "...went into shock" on the plane ride back to the United States after filming and "..couldn't speak. He could hardly move." After landing, Hunter was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles but doctors could not find any serious injuries save for a displaced vertebra and a concussion.[13]

On the night of May 26, 1969, Hunter suffered an intracranial hemorrhage while on a three-stair set of steps at his home in Van Nuys, California.[10][13] He fell, knocked over a planter, and struck his head on a banister, fracturing his skull.[14] He was found unconscious by his wife and taken to Valley Presbyterian Hospital where he underwent brain surgery to repair his injuries, but died at about 9:30 a.m. the following morning at the age of 42.[15]

Hunter's funeral was held at St Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys on May 31 after which he was interred at Glen Haven Memorial Park, in Sylmar, California.[14][16]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1950 Julius Caesar Third Plebian Uncredited
1951 Call Me Mister The Kid
1951 Fourteen Hours Danny Klempner
1951 The Frogmen Pappy Creighton
1951 Take Care of My Little Girl Chad Carnes
1952 Red Skies of Montana Edward J. (Ed) Miller Alternative title: Smoke Jumpers
1952 Belles on Their Toes Dr. Bob Grayson
1952 Lure of the Wilderness Ben Tyler
1952 Dreamboat Bill Ainslee
1953 Sailor of the King Signalman Andrew 'Canada' Brown Alternative titles: C.S. Forester's Sailor of the King
Single-Handed
1954 Three Young Texans Johnny Colt
1954 Princess of the Nile Prince Haidi
1955 White Feather Little Dog
1955 Seven Angry Men Owen Brown Alternative title: God's Angry Man
1955 Seven Cities of Gold Matuwir
1955 The Living Swamp
 –
Producer
1956 The Searchers Martin Pawley
1956 The Proud Ones Thad Anderson
1956 The Great Locomotive Chase William A. Fuller Alternative title: Andrews' Raiders
1956 A Kiss Before Dying Gordon Grant
1957 Gun for a Coward Bless Keough
1957 The True Story of Jesse James Frank James
1957 The Way to the Gold Joe Mundy
1957 No Down Payment David Martin
1958 Count Five and Die Captain Bill Ranson
1958 The Last Hurrah Adam Caulfield
1958 In Love and War Sgt. Nico Kantaylis
1959 La ciudad sagrada
 –
Credited as Producer; re-released in 1964 as The Mighty Jungle combined with new African shot footage with Marshall Thompson
1960 Sergeant Rutledge Lt. Tom Cantrell
1960 Hell to Eternity Guy Gabaldon
1960 Key Witness Fred Morrow
1961 Man-Trap Matt Jameson
1961 King of Kings Jesus
1962 No Man Is an Island George R. Tweed
1962 The Longest Day Sgt. (later Lt.) John H. Fuller Credited as Jeff Hunter
1963 Gold for the Caesars Lancer Alternative title: Oro per i Cesari
1963 The Man From Galveston Timothy Higgins
1965 Murieta Joaquín Murrieta Alterntive title: Joaquín Murrieta
1965 Uncle Tom's Cabin Voice role Alternative title: Onkel Toms Hütte
Uncredited
1965 Brainstorm Jim Grayam Credited as Jeff Hunter
1966 Strange Portrait
1966 Dimension 5 Justin Power
1967 A Witch Without a Broom Garver Logan Credited as Jeff Hunter
1967 A Guide for the Married Man Technical Adviser (Mountain Climber) Cameo role
1967 The Christmas Kid Joe Novak
1967 Custer of the West Capt. Benteen
1968 The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell Lt. (J.G.) Lyman P. Jones
1968 Find a Place to Die Joe Collins Alternative title: Joe... cercati un posto per morire!
1968 Sexy Susan Sins Again Count Enrico Alternative titles: Frau Wirtin hat auch einen Grafen
The Hostess Also Has a Count
1969 Super Colt 38 Billy Hayes
1969 ¡Viva América! Frank Mannata Alternative titles: Cry Chicago
The True Story of Frank Mannata
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1955-1957 Climax! Wesley Jerome Penn
Phil Aubry
Episode: "South of the Sun"
Episode: "Hurricane Diane"
1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour Dick Cannock Episode: "The Empty Room"
1958 Pursuit Lt. Aaron Gibbs Episode: "Kiss Me Again, Stranger"
1960 Destiny, West! John Charles Fremont TV movie
1961 Checkmate Edward "Jocko" Townsend Segment: "Waiting For Jocko"
1962 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Harold Episode: "Don't Look Behind You"
1962 Death Valley Days Capt. Walter Reed, MD Episode: "Suzie"
1962 Combat! Sergeant Dane Episode: "Lost Sheep, Lost Shepherd"
1963-1964 Temple Houston Temple Houston 26 episodes
Star and Executive producer
1963-1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Gabe
Barry Stinson
Episode: "Seven Miles of Bad Road"
Episode: "Parties to the Crime"
1965 Kraft Suspense Theatre Fred Girard Episode: "The Trains of Silence"
1965-1967 The F.B.I. Francis Jerome
Ralph Stuart
Episode: "The Monsters"
Episode: "The Enemies"
1966 Journey into Fear Dr. Howard Graham Episode: "Seller's Market"
1966 The Legend of Jesse James Jeremy Thrallkill Episode: " A Field of Wild Flowers"
1966 Daniel Boone Roark Logan Episode: "Requiem for Craw Green"
1966 The Green Hornet Emmet Crown Episode: "Freeway to Death"
1967 The Monroes Ed Stanley Episode: "Wild Bill"
1967-1969 Insight James Smith
Ken
Episode: "Madam"
Episode: "The Poker Game"
1966 Star Trek Captain Christopher Pike Episode: "The Cage"
Released posthumously

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jeffrey Hunter Died Tuesday From Home Fall". The Times-News. May 28, 1969. p. 3. 
  2. ^ Fess Parker's Archive of American Television interview
  3. ^ Gwilym Beckerlegge, From Sacred Text to Internet, Ashgate, 2001, p.268.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 106-109
  5. ^ J. D. Spiro. "Happy in Hollywood". The Milwaukee Journal. 4 July 1965.
  6. ^ "Clegg Hoyt". en.memory-alpha.org. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  7. ^ Star Trek creator and producer Gene Roddenberry wrote to him on April 5, 1965:

    I am told you have decided not to go ahead with Star Trek. This has to be your own decision, of course, and I must respect it. You may be certain I hold no grudge or ill feelings and expect to continue to reflect publicly and privately the high regard I learned for you during the production of our pilot.

    David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 244. ISBN 978-0-451-45418-8.

  8. ^ J.D. Spiro, "Happy in Hollywood" (interview), The Milwaukee Journal, July 4, 1965.
  9. ^ Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Pocket Books, 1996. ISBN 0-671-89628-8.
  10. ^ a b c d Ferguson, Michael (2003). Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies. Michael. p. 100. ISBN 1-891-85548-4. 
  11. ^ Lee Goldberg, Unsold Television Pilots 1955–89, Backinprint.com, 2001, ISBN 978-0-595-19429-2.
  12. ^ "Jeffrey Hunter, Actor, Dies". Toledo Blade. May 28, 1969. p. 7. 
  13. ^ a b Gilpatrick, Kristin (2002). Famous Wisconsin Film Stars. Badger Books Inc. p. 73. ISBN 1-878-56986-4. 
  14. ^ a b "Hunter Lost His Balance". Times Daily. May 29, 1969. p. 10. 
  15. ^ "Jeff Hunter, Movie Actor, Dies Tuesday". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. May 28, 1969. p. 4. 
  16. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 102. ISBN 0-786-40983-5. 

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