Actress from Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’ turned activist, Marsha Hunt, dies aged 104 in California

Marsha Hunt, one of many final surviving actors from Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age of the Nineteen Thirties and Forties, has died. She was 104.

Hunt, who appeared in greater than 100 films and TV exhibits, died on Wednesday at her residence in California, introduced Roger Memos, the writer-director of a 2015 documentary about her life.

The actor had a busy movie profession, throughout which she labored with performers ranging from Laurence Olivier to Andy (*104*), earlier than it was disrupted by a McCarthy-era blacklist.

A promising profession which instantly ‘dried up’

Born in 1917 in Chicago, Hunt arrived in Hollywood in 1935 and over the following 15 years appeared in dozens of movies, from the Preston Sturges comedy Easy Living to the difference of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that starred Olivier and Greer Garson.

She went on to play demure roles in a sequence of movies for Paramount, together with The Accusing Finger and Come on Leathernecks, however, as she informed The Associated Press in 2020, she was bored with “sweet young things” and begged for extra substantial work.

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A screen grab from a black and white western movie, where a young Marsha hunt is hiding slightly behind a man with a gun.
Marsha Hunt pictured in in 1937 movie Born to the West with John Wayne.(Paramount Pictures)

In the 2015 documentary Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity, she remembered nearly getting the a part of Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, even being assured by producer David Selznick.

Within days, Olivia de Havilland was introduced because the actor who would play Melanie for the 1939 epic.

“That’s the day I grew up,” Hunt mentioned in the documentary.

“That’s the day I knew I could never have my heart broken again by this profession of acting.”

She left Paramount for MGM across the time of Gone with the Wind and had lead or supporting roles in These Glamour Girls, Flight Command and The Human Comedy amongst different films.

“MGM was sheer magic,” she recalled in a 2007 Associated Press interview.

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A black and white LIFE Magazine cover dated March 6, 1950, featuring Marsha Hunt wearing a costume.
Marsha Hunt appeared on the quilt of LIFE Magazine in March 1950.(Supplied)

She was properly beneath 40 when MGM named her “Hollywood’s Youngest Character Actress”.

And by the early Fifties, she was sufficient of a star to seem on the quilt of Life journal and appeared set to thrive in the brand new medium of tv.

But simply as her profession was thriving, instantly, “the work dried up”, she recalled in 1996.

Work unravelled after embracing liberal causes

The cause, she discovered from her agent, was that the communist-hunting Red Channels publication had revealed that she attended a peace convention in Stockholm and different supposedly suspicious gatherings.

“I’d made 54 movies in my first 16 years in Hollywood,” Hunt mentioned in 1996.

“In the last 45 years, I’ve made eight. That shows what a blacklist can do to a career.”

Alongside Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Danny Kaye, Hunt additionally went to Washington in 1947 to protest the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was conducting a witch-hunt for communists in the movie trade.

“I was never a communist or even interested in the communist cause,” she declared in 1996.

“I was a political innocent defending my industry.”

In the early Fifties, shortly after the Cold War started, tons of of leisure trade staff had been blacklisted in Hollywood on suspicion of being communists.

Hunt focused on the theatre, the place the blacklist was not noticed, till she started often getting movie work once more in the late Fifties.

She appeared in the touring firms of The Cocktail Party, The Lady’s Not for Burning and The Tunnel of Love, and on Broadway in The Devil’s Disciple, Legend of Sarah and The Paisley Convertible.

With a few exceptions, similar to producer Stanley Kramer’s 1952 household comedy The Happy Time, she was unseen on the large display screen for a lot of the Fifties.

She later appeared in many TV sequence, together with My Three Sons, Matlock, All in the Family and Murder, She Wrote.

Elegant and lively into previous age

Hunt’s early marriage to director Jerry Hopper ended in divorce. In 1948 she married movie author Robert Presnell Jr, they usually had one daughter, who died quickly after her untimely start. They remained married till his dying in 1986.

Hunt remained vigorous and stylish in previous age. In 1993, she put out The Way We Wore: Styles of the Nineteen Thirties and ’40s and Our World Since Then, a lavishly illustrated guide of the fashions throughout her Hollywood heyday.

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Marsha Hunt pictured in a satin blue jacket, with formal hair and make-up, at an event in her 90s.
Marsha Hunt, pictured in 2013, was concerned in a number of causes all through her life.(AP: Jordan Strauss/Invision, File photograph)

A lifelong political activist, Hunt had a brush with terror in 1962 when she took half in a discussion board on right-wing extremists and two different contributors’ properties had been broken by do-it-yourself bombs the exact same night.

“The ashen-faced actress said her home probably escaped the bomb attack only because the terrorists were unable to find out where she lived,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Police had been despatched to protect her residence.

More lately, she helped create a refuge for the homeless in Los Angeles’ Sherman Oaks neighbourhood, the place she lived and was feted with the title of honorary mayor.

Looking again on her activist years, Hunt remarked in 1996: “I never craved an identity as a figure of controversy. But having weathered it and found other interests in the meantime, I can look back with some philosophy.”


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