He worked with artists ranging from Laurence Oliver to Andy Griffith, whose career was briefly interrupted by the McCarthy-era blacklist.
LOS ANGELES — Marsha Hunt, one of the last surviving actresses of Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age of the 1930s and 1940s, who worked with artists from Laurence Oliver to Andy Griffith, is a one-time He was influenced by the McCarthy-era blacklist. died. She was 104 years old.
Hunt, who appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows, died Wednesday at her home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., said Roger Mimos, writer and director of the 2015 documentary “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity.”
A native of Chicago, she came to Hollywood in 1935 and appeared in dozens of films over the next 15 years, from the Preston Sturges comedy “Easy Living” to an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” starring Oliver and Greer Garson. Acted.
She was under 40 when MGM named her “Hollywood’s Youngest Character Actress”. And by the early 1950s, she was enough of a star to appear on the cover of Life magazine and seemed ready to thrive in the new medium of television when suddenly “the work dried up,” she Recalled in 1996.
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The reason, he learned from his agent, was that a Communist-hunting Red Channels publication had revealed that he had attended a peace conference in Stockholm and other dubious gatherings. Along with Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Danny Kaye, Hunt traveled to Washington in 1947 to protest the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was conducting a witch hunt for Communists in the film industry.
“I made 54 movies in my first 16 years in Hollywood,” Hunt said in 1996. “In the last 45 years, I’ve done eight films. That shows what a blacklist can do to a career.
Hunt focused on the theater, where the blacklist was not observed, until he began working occasionally in films in the late 1950s. She appeared in “The Cocktail Party,” “The Ladies Not for Burning” and “The Tunnel of Love” and on Broadway in the touring companies of “The Devil’s Disciple,” “Legend of Sarah” and “The Paisley Convertible.”
Marcia Virginia Hunt (she later changed the spelling of her maiden name) was born in Chicago and raised in New York City, the daughter of a lawyer-insurance executive and a voice teacher. Slim and stylish, with a warm smile and large, expressive eyes, Hunt studied drama and worked as a model before making her film debut.
An early marriage to director Jerry Hooper ended in divorce. In 1948 she married the film writer Robert Presnell Jr., and they had a daughter, who died shortly after her premature birth. Her husband died in 1986.
Hunt’s first film was 1935’s “The Virginia Judge.” He played goofy roles in a series of films for Paramount, including “The Accusing Finger” and “Come on Leathernecks,” but, as he told The Associated Press in 2020, he was “sweet. The youths were tired of “things” and began to beg. For more important work.
Hollywood proved a painful education. In “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity”, she almost missed out on getting the part of Melanie Wilkes in “Gone with the Wind”, until assured by producer David O’Selznick. Within days, Olivia de Havilland was announced as the actress who would play Melanie for the 1939 epic.
“That’s the day I grew up,” Hunt said in the documentary. “That was the day I knew I could never get my heart broken again by this acting profession.”
He left Paramount for MGM around the time of “Gone With the Wind” and had starring or supporting roles in “The Glamor Girls,” “Flight Command” and “The Human Comedy,” among other films.
“MGM was absolute magic,” he recalled in a 2007 Associated Press interview. “When I got to the studio for a day’s role, they parked my car. I went to the set and found a director’s chair with ‘Miss Hunt’ written on it. There was another sign in my dressing room.
“I said to myself, ‘Any studio that treats a one-day player like that really knows how to make a picture.’ He won my loyalty.”
Work quickly blossomed after he joined the 1947 protests against liberal causes, such as congressional hearings on known Communist influence in Hollywood.
“I have never been a Communist nor interested in the Communist cause,” she declared in 1996. “I was a political innocent defending my industry.”
With a few exceptions, such as producer Stanley Kramer’s 1952 family comedy “The Happy Time”, she did not appear on the big screen for most of the 1950s. She later appeared in several TV series, including “My Three Sons,” “Matt Lock,” “All in the Family” and “Murder, She Wrote.”
She remained active and sophisticated even in her old age. In 1993, she published “The Way We Ware: Style of the 1930s and ’40s and Our World Since,” a stunning photo book of fashion in its Hollywood heyday.
A lifelong political activist, Hunt experienced terrorism in 1962 when he attended a forum of right-wing extremists and the homes of two other participants were damaged by homemade bombs that same evening.
“The ash-faced actress said her home may have escaped the bombing because the terrorists couldn’t figure out where she lived,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The police were sent to protect his house.
More recently, she helped build a homeless shelter in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, where she lived, and was honored as an honorary mayor.
Looking back on his activist years, Hunt remarked in 1996: “I never aspired to an identity as a figure of controversy. But after coping with that and finding other interests in the meantime, I can look back with some philosophy.”