Marsha Hunt (actress)

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For the African American singer and novelist, see Marsha Hunt (singer and novelist).
Marsha Hunt
Marsha Hunt in Cry Havoc trailer.jpg
Marsha Hunt in trailer for Cry "Havoc"
Born Marcia Virginia Hunt
(1917-10-17) October 17, 1917 (age 98)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1935–2008
Spouse(s) Jerry Hopper (1938–1945)
Robert Presnell Jr. (1946–1986) (his death) (1 child)

Marsha Virginia Hunt (born October 17, 1917) is a retired American film, theatre and television actress who was blacklisted by Hollywood movie studio executives in the 1950s.

Early life[edit]

Born Marcia Virginia Hunt, on October 17, 1917, in Chicago, Illinois,[1] she later changed the spelling of her first name to Marsha.[2] She was the younger of two girls born to Earl Hunt, who worked as a lawyer, and later, a Social Security Administrator. Minabel Hunt, her mother, worked as a vocal teacher and organist.[3] Hunt recalled many years later,

I lucked into the most fortuitous, warm, constructive kind of family context imaginable. My father was a top scholar, a Phi Beta Kappa. My mother was a voice coach and accompanist of singers in the concert and opera fields. We didn't have the term "liberated woman", but my mother certainly was... They were brought up, both, in the state of Indiana, which is now called the Bible Belt. They were wholesome, they neither smoked nor drank, and they never used the Lord's name in vain. I never heard a four-letter word. It didn't exist in my wholesome family setting.[2]

Hunt's family moved to New York City when she was young and began performing in school plays and church functions. She graduated from the Horace Mann High School for Girls in 1934, at 16.[2]

After graduation, Hunt's parents wanted to her to pursue a college degree, but Hunt, unable to "locate a single college or university in the land where you could major in drama before your third year", instead found work modeling for the John Powers Agency and began taking acting classes at the Theodora Irvine Studio for the theatre.[4][5]

Career[edit]

Years at Paramount[edit]

Celebrities including Hunt, Robert Taylor, Jean Harlow and Mitzi Green were invited to Washington, D.C., to assist with President's Birthday Ball fundraising activities (1937)

In June 1935, at 17, Hunt signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, making her film debut in The Virginia Judge later that same year.[6] Between 1935 and 1938, she made 12 pictures at Paramount and two "loan-outs" at RKO and 20th Century Fox.[2] Among her more notable films from this period was the 1937 western Born to the West, co-starring John Wayne.[7]

Paramount declined to renew Hunt's contract in 1938, and she spent a few years starring in B-films produced by Republic and Monogram,[8] before winning a supporting role in MGM's These Glamour Girls (1939) opposite Lana Turner and Lew Ayres. Other roles in major studio productions soon followed, including supporting roles as Mary Bennet in MGM's version of Pride and Prejudice (1940) and as Martha Scott's surrogate child Hope Thompson in Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941).[2]

Years at MGM[edit]

In 1941, Hunt signed a contract with MGM, where she remained for the next six years.[2] During this period she had starring roles in 21 films,[9] including The Penalty (1941)[10] opposite Lionel Barrymore, Panama Hattie (1942) opposite Ann Sothern and Red Skelton, and in the war drama Pilot No. 5 (1943) in which she was cast as the love interest of Franchot Tone.

Hollywood blacklist[edit]

Disturbed by the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Hunt and her husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell, Jr.[13], became members of the Committee for the First Amendment.[11][12] On Oct 26, 1947, Hunt took part in Hollywood Fights Back, a star-studded radio program, co-written by her husband, protesting the activities of HUAC.[13][14][14]. The next day Hunt flew with a group of about 30 actors, directors, writers, and filmmakers (including John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Danny Kaye), to Washington to protest the actions of HUAC.[15][16]

When she returned to Hollywood just three days later, things had changed. She was asked to denounce her activities if she wanted to find more work – she refused.[17] In 1950, Hunt was named as a potential Communist or Communist sympathizer (along with 151 other actors, writers and directors) in the anti-Communist publication Red Channels.[2][18] The publication claimed that her leanings were made evident by her supposedly subversive actions, including: asking the Supreme Court to review the convictions of John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo; recording a message in support of a rally organized by the Stop Censorship Committee in 1948; signing a statement in 1946 issued by the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions; and speaking at rally organized by the Progressive Citizens of America [15] in 1946.[2]

After the publication of Red Channels in 1950, work became scarce for Hunt and Presnell.[19] Hunt had worked steadily from 1935 until 1949, appearing in 52 films. In 1944 she polled seventh in a list by exhibitors of "Stars of Tomorrow".[20] After being blacklisted, Hunt appeared in only three films during the next eight years.[21]

Agencies and producers agreed to deem all one hundred and fifty "unemployable". That actually began the blacklist practice, ending all our careers and livelihoods in broadcasting. I don't know that the movie studios would have blacklisted me if Red Channels hadn't named me and made them think I might be a Communist. So to play safe, they put me on their secret blacklist...

I think by 1950 it was clear that the whole of show business was under political siege. But, miraculously, the Broadway stage was spared. People were not denied work on the Broadway stage. Movies, radio and television were overcome, but the theatre was not. When I was unable to work in any of the blacklist media, I could always do a play in stock, around the country.[22]

During an interview in 1995, Hunt stated that she believed producer Richard J. Collins was among those responsible for her inclusion in the blacklist.[23]

I never met Richard Collins, but when he was in some executive post on Bonanza, a friend of mine knew him slightly. At one point, when I was recommended for a script, she was astonished to hear him say, "Don't bother bringing up Marsha Hunt to me. As long as I am connected with this show, she will never work on it."[24]

In 1957, her career began to pick up. She appeared in six films during the next three years before announcing her semi-retirement in 1960.

Later work[edit]

Following her semi-retirement in 1960, Hunt appeared in small roles in five films and numerous television shows, including an episode of the ABC medical drama Breaking Point. In 1962 she appeared in the season-nine episode of Gunsmoke titled "The Glory and the Mud"

In 1971, she appeared in the movie Johnny Got His Gun, written by fellow blacklist member, Dalton Trumbo, playing the mother of the title character portrayed by Timothy Bottoms.

On February 8, 1988, she appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the episode "Too Short a Season" as Anne Jameson, wife of an admiral who took an age reversing drug.

In 1997 she appeared as Ethel Thayer in the Santa Susana Repertory Company's production of On Golden Pond.[25]

A photo of Marsha Hunt in 2013
Hunt in 2013

Hunt played Elizabeth Lyons in a 2006 movie, Chloe's Prayer.[16]

She produced the CD Tony London: Songs From the Heart with the Page Cavanaugh Trio that includes two of the fifty songs that Hunt has composed.

In 2008, Hunt appeared in a short film noir, The Grand Inquisitor, as Hazel Reedy, the could-be widow of one of America's most infamous unapprehended serial killers.[17] The film premiered at the 6th annual Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco.

In 2013, Hunt debuted a clip of a song she wrote 40 years earlier titled "Here's to All Who Love" about love and same-sex marriage.[26] Sung by Glee star Bill A. Jones the clip immediately went viral.[27] It will be featured in Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity, an upcoming documentary about her life.[28] The documentary was scheduled to debut at the Palm Springs and Santa Barbara International Film Festivals in January 2015.[29]

Later life[edit]

Hunt was named honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks, California in 1983.[29]

In 1993, her book The Way We Wore: Styles of the 1930s and '40s and Our World Since Then was published by Fallbrook Publishing.[18]

Hunt still identifies as a political liberal, and is very concerned with such issues as global pollution[19], worldwide poverty,[29] peace in third world nations [20], and population growth.

In 1955, after a trip opened her eyes to the issue of hunger in the Third World, Hunt gave speeches throughout the United States, encouraging Americans to join the fight against starvation in the Third World by joining the United Nations Association.[30][29] Also dedicated to fighting hunger and homelessness at home, Hunt was a founder of the "San Fernando Valley Mayor's Fund for the Homeless" and helped to open one of the first homeless shelters in the San Fernando Valley.[31][29] Hunt also raised funds for the creation of "Rose Cottage", a day care shelter for homeless children,[29] and served for many years on the Advisory Board of Directors for the San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center, a large non-profit, where she advocates for adults and children affected by homelessness and mental illness.

Personal life[edit]

Hunt is Methodist.[32] She married Jerry "Jay" Hopper, assistant head of the editing department at Paramount, in November 1938.[33] The marriage ended in divorce in 1945. Hunt married her second husband, screenwriter and radio director Robert Presnell, Jr., in 1946.[34] They remained together until his death in 1986 at 71.[35]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role
1935 The Virginia Judge Mary Lee Calvert
1936 The Arizona Raiders Harriett Lindsay
College Holiday Sylvia Smith
Easy to Take Donna Westlake
Gentle Julia Julia Atwater
Hollywood Boulevard Patricia Blakeford
Desert Gold Judith Belding
1937 Annapolis Salute Julia Clemens
Born to the West Judy Worstall
Thunder Trail Amy Morgan
Murder Goes to College Nora Barry
Easy Living Girl
1938 Come On, Leathernecks! Valerie Taylor
1939 These Glamour Girls Betty Ainsbridge
Star Reporter Barbara Burnette
Winter Carnival Lucy Morgan
Long Shot Martha Sharon
Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President Kitty Crusper
The Hardys Ride High Susan Bowen
1940 Irene Eleanor Worth
Flight Command Claire
Pride and Prejudice Mary Bennet
1941 I'll Wait for You Pauline Miller
Blossoms in the Dust Charlotte
Unholy Partners Gail Fenton
The Trial of Mary Dugan Agatha Hall
Cheers for Miss Bishop Hope Thompson
The Penalty Katherine Logan
1942 Kid Glove Killer Jane Mitchell
The Affairs of Martha Martha Lindstrom
Panama Hattie Leila Tree
Joe Smith, American Mary Smith
Seven Sweethearts Regina Van Maaster
1943 Cry 'Havoc' Flo Norris
Lost Angel Katie Mallory
The Human Comedy Diana Steed
Pilot ♯5 Freddie Andrews
Thousands Cheer Marsha Hunt (herself)
1944 Bride by Mistake Sylvia Lockwood
None Shall Escape Marja Pacierkowski
Music for Millions Rosalind
1945 The Valley of Decision Constance Scott
1946 A Letter for Evie Evie O'Connor
1947 Carnegie Hall Nora Ryan
Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman Martha Gray
1948 Raw Deal Ann Martin
The Inside Story Francine Taylor
1949 Mary Ryan, Detective
Take One False Step Martha Wier
1952 The Happy Time Susan Bonnard
1954 Diplomatic Passport Judy Anderson
1955 A Word to the Wives (short) Alice
1956 No Place to Hide Anne Dobson
1957 Back from the Dead Kate Hazelton
Bombers B-52 Edith Brennan
1959 Blue Denim Jessie Bartley
1960 The Plunderers Katie Miller
1971 Johnny Got His Gun Joe's mother
2008 The Grand Inquisitor (short) Hazel Reedy

References[edit]

  1. ^ Moore, Solomon. "Move to Valley Signaled Career Upswing". Los Angeles Times June 11, 1997 [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Slide, Anthony (1999). Actors on Red Alert: Career Interviews with Five Actors and Actresses Affected by the Blacklist. Scarecrow Press. pp. 47–49. 
  3. ^ Moore, Solomon. "Move to Valley Signaled Career Upswing". Los Angeles Times June 11, 1997 [2]
  4. ^ Slide, pp. 49-50
  5. ^ Moore, Solomon. "Move to Valley Signaled Career Upswing". Los Angeles Times June 11, 1997 [3]
  6. ^ Slide, Anthony. Actors on Red Alert: Career Interviews with Five Actors and Actresses Affected by the Blacklist pp 47-49 Scarecrow Press, 1999
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ Slide, pp. 47-49 and 55-56
  9. ^ [5]
  10. ^ [6]
  11. ^ Krutnik, Frank. "Un-American" Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era p 70 Rutgers University Press, 2007
  12. ^ Leider, Emily W. Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood p 261 University of California Press, 2011
  13. ^ Ross, Stephen J. Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics Oxford University Press, 2011
  14. ^ Franscella, Lawrence and Weisel, Al. Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause Simon and Schuster, 2005
  15. ^ Krutnik, Frank. "Un-American" Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era p 70 Rutgers University Press, 2007
  16. ^ Leider, Emily W. Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood p 261 University of California Press, 2011
  17. ^ Moore, Solomon. "Move to Valley Signaled Career Upswing". Los Angeles Times June 11, 1997 [7]
  18. ^ Franscella, Lawrence and Weisel, Al. Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause Simon and Schuster, 2005
  19. ^ Franscella, Lawrence and Weisel, Al. Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause Simon and Schuster, 2005
  20. ^ "SAGA OF THE HIGH SEAS.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 11 November 1944. p. 9. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Franscella, Lawrence and Weisel, Al. Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause Simon and Schuster, 2005
  22. ^ Slide, p. 68
  23. ^ Freedland, Michael. Witch Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism's War On Tinseltown Aurum Press, 2014
  24. ^ Freedland, Michael. Witch Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism's War On Tinseltown Aurum Press, 2014
  25. ^ Everett, Todd. On Golden Pond Shimmers : William Windom, Marsha Hunt lead a strong cast in the family drama. February 20, 1997 [8]
  26. ^ Szymanski, Mike. "At 95, Marsha Hunt Debuts New Song About Gay Marriage" Sherman Oaks Patch August 27, 2013 [9]
  27. ^ Szymanski, Mike. "At 95, Marsha Hunt Debuts New Song About Gay Marriage" Sherman Oaks Patch August 27, 2013 [10]
  28. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/10/heres-to-all-who-love_n_4576395.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular
  29. ^ a b c d e f Memos, Roger C. (October 17, 2014). "Honoring Actress – Activist Marsha Hunt on her 97th Birthday!". Retrieved May 14, 2016. 
  30. ^ Moore, Solomon. "Move to Valley Signaled Career Upswing". Los Angeles Times June 11, 1997 [11]
  31. ^ Moore, Solomon. "Move to Valley Signaled Career Upswing". Los Angeles Times June 11, 1997 [12]
  32. ^ http://www.fumSoft machine)ceunice.org/About.html
  33. ^ Slide, Anthony. Actors on Red Alert: Career Interviews with Five Actors and Actresses Affected by the Blacklist pp 56-57 Scarecrow Press, 1999
  34. ^ Slide, p. 60
  35. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1986-06-17/local/me-11628_1_robert-presnell-jr

Meet John Doe (1941)---bert's wife

  • McGilligan, Patrick and Paul Buhle (1997). Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist (Glenn Lovell Q&A with Hunt). St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17046-7. 

External links[edit]