|Born||Henry Herman McKinnies, Jr.
November 25, 1926
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Died||May 27, 1969
Los Angeles, California
|Cause of death||Intracranial hemorrhage and skull fracture|
|Resting place||Glen Haven Memorial Park in Sylmar, California|
|Other names||Jeff Hunter|
|Education||Whitefish Bay High School|
|Alma mater||Northwestern University
University of California, Los Angeles
|Spouse(s)||Barbara Rush (m. 1950; div. 1955)
Joan Bartlett (m. 1957; div. 1967)
Emily McLaughlin (m. 1969–69)
Jeffrey "Jeff" Hunter (November 25, 1926 – May 27, 1969) was an American film and television actor and producer. Hunter is known for his roles 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 and appears in archival footage in the series' only two-part episode, "The Menagerie".
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.
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.
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.) 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.
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."
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. 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."
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." 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."
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, Hunter's co-star in The True Story of Jesse James, appeared in this pilot as Pitcairn, the transporter chief of the fictitious USS Enterprise. Hunter declined to film a second Star Trek pilot requested by NBC in 1965, and decided to concentrate on motion pictures such as Brainstorm. Footage from the original pilot was subsequently adapted into a two-part episode titled "The Menagerie." Later that year, Hunter filmed the pilot for another NBC series, the espionage thriller Journey Into Fear, which the network did not pick up.
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.
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 only three months later.
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, accidentally exploded inward. Hunter sustained a serious concussion. According to Hunter's wife Emily, 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.
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. He fell, knocked over a planter, and struck his head on a banister, fracturing his skull. He was found unconscious by his wife and taken to Valley Presbyterian Hospital where he underwent brain surgery to repair his injuries. He died at about 9:30 a.m. the following morning at the age of 42.
|1950||Julius Caesar||Third Plebeian||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|
|1953||Sailor of the King||Signalman Andrew 'Canada' Brown||Alternative titles: C.S. Forester's Sailor of the King
|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||
|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||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||Alternative title: Joaquín Murrieta|
|1965||Uncle Tom's Cabin||Voice role||Alternative title: Onkel Toms Hütte
|1965||Brainstorm||Jim Grayam||Credited as Jeff Hunter|
|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: The Mafia Mob
|1955-1957||Climax!||Wesley Jerome Penn
|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
|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
|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"|
Episode: "The Poker Game"
|1965||Star Trek||Captain Christopher Pike||Episode: "The Cage"
Released posthumously (1988)
- "Jeffrey Hunter Died Tuesday From Home Fall". The Times-News. May 28, 1969. p. 3.
- Fess Parker's Archive of American Television interview
- Gwilym Beckerlegge, From Sacred Text to Internet, Ashgate, 2001, p.268.
- 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
- J. D. Spiro. "Happy in Hollywood". The Milwaukee Journal. 4 July 1965.
- "Clegg Hoyt". en.memory-alpha.org. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- 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.
- J.D. Spiro, "Happy in Hollywood" (interview), The Milwaukee Journal, July 4, 1965.
- Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Pocket Books, 1996. ISBN 0-671-89628-8.
- Ferguson, Michael (2003). Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies. Michael. p. 100. ISBN 1-891-85548-4.
- Lee Goldberg, Unsold Television Pilots 1955–89, Backinprint.com, 2001, ISBN 978-0-595-19429-2.
- "Jeffrey Hunter, Actor, Dies". Toledo Blade. May 28, 1969. p. 7.
- Gilpatrick, Kristin (2002). Famous Wisconsin Film Stars. Badger Books Inc. p. 73. ISBN 1-878-56986-4.
- "Hunter Lost His Balance". Times Daily. May 29, 1969. p. 10.
- "Jeff Hunter, Movie Actor, Dies Tuesday". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. May 28, 1969. p. 4.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 102. ISBN 0-786-40983-5.
- Jeffrey Hunter at the Internet Movie Database
- Jeffrey Hunter at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- Tribute site to Jeffrey Hunter
- Jeffrey Hunter at Find a Grave