At age 104, Marsha Hunt, a star of the 1940s who was blacklisted, passed away.
Marsha Hunt, one of the few remaining actors from Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age of the 1930s and ’40s, has passed away. Her career was briefly derailed by the McCarthy-era blacklist, although she worked with stars like Laurence Olivier and Andy Griffith. 104 years old.
Roger Memos, writer and director of the 2015 documentary “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity,” confirmed Hunt’s death on Wednesday at her home in Sherman Oaks, California. Hunt has starred in more than 100 films and television shows.
She moved to Hollywood from Chicago in 1935 and acted in scores of films over the next 15 years, including the Preston Sturges comedy “Easy Living” and the Olivier/Greer Garson adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
When she was considerably under 40, MGM dubbed her “Hollywood’s Youngest Character Actress.” She was a big enough star by the early 1950s to land on the cover of Life, and she seemed poised to find success in the new medium of television until, as she recounted in 1996, “the job dried up.”
She found out via her agency that this was because the communist-hunting Red Channels journal had exposed her attendance at a peace conference in Stockholm and other ostensibly questionable events. In 1947, Hunt joined fellow Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, and Danny Kaye in protesting the House Un-American Activities Committee’s (HUAC) witch hunt against communists in Hollywood.
In 1996, Hunt claimed, “I’d made 54 pictures in my first 16 years in Hollywood.” The effects of being on a blacklist are illustrated by the statement, “In the last 45 years, I’ve made eight.”
Hunt primarily worked in the theatre, where the blacklist was ignored, until the late ’50s, when she began to receive sporadic film work again. She made appearances with the itinerant productions of “She’s appeared in films including “The Cocktail Party,” “The Lady’s Not for Burning,” and “The Tunnel of Love,” and on Broadway in shows like “The Devil’s Disciple,” “The Legend of Sarah,” and “The Paisley Convertible.”
Marcia Virginia Hunt (she later altered the spelling of her first name) is an American actress who was born in Chicago and raised in New York City. She is the tall, thin daughter of a lawyer-insurance executive and a voice teacher.
After a failed marriage to filmmaker Jerry Hopper, she wed screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr. in 1948; the couple had one daughter, who was born prematurely and died shortly after. Presnell Sr. passed away in 1986.
Hunt made her film debut in 1935 with “The Virginia Judge,” and she went on to play subdued roles in a string of Paramount films like “The Accusing Finger” and “Come on Leathernecks” before telling The Associated Press in 2020 that she was tired of playing “sweet young things” and pleading for more challenging roles.
After being persuaded by producer David O. Selznick that she would portray Melanie Wilkes in the 1939 epic “Gone with the Wind,” Marsha Hunt recounts in “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity” how heartbreaking it was to learn that Olivia de Havilland would instead play the role.
In the documentary, Hunt reflects on that moment, saying, “That’s the day I grew up. That’s the day I knew I could never have my heart shattered again by this profession of acting.”
She acted in such films as “These Glamour Girls,” “Flight Command,” and “The Human Comedy” after leaving Paramount for MGM around the time of “Gone with the Wind.”
She reflected on her time at MGM, calling it “pure enchantment,” in an interview with the Associated Press in 2007 “The studio offered me parking when I arrived for my one-day job. Upon entering the studio, I noticed a ‘Miss Hunt’ sign on the director’s chair and another in my dressing area.
My thoughts were, “Any studio that treats a one-day player that way, really knows how to make images,” and the studio eventually won my loyalty.
After she publicly supported liberal causes, such as participating in the 1947 demonstration against congressional hearings on the rumored communist influence in Hollywood, her career swiftly fell apart.
In 1996, she said, “I was never a communist or particularly interested in the communist cause.” In defense of my industry, I was a political apolitical innocent.
For the most part of the 1950s, she was not featured in any films. However, producer Stanley Kramer’s 1952 family comedy “The Happy Time” was an exception. Later in her career, she guest starred on a wide variety of TV shows like “My Three Sons,” “Matlock,” “All in the Family,” and “Murder, She Wrote.”
Even in her later years, she maintained her vitality and grace. She published a richly illustrated book about the styles of her Hollywood era, “The Way We Wore: Styles of the 1930s and ’40s and Our World Since Then,” in 1993.
A lifetime political activist, Hunt had a scare in 1962 when two homes of forum attendees were damaged by improvised bombs the same evening.
The Los Angeles Times said that the actress, with a pale complexion, said the terrorists were likely unable to locate her home because of this. Police were sent to secure her residence.
Just lately, she established a shelter for the homeless near her house in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, where she has been honored with the title of honorary mayor.
When asked in 1996 about her time as an activist, Hunt said, “I never desired identity as a figure of controversy. But having survived it and discovered other hobbies in the meanwhile, I can look back with some philosophy.”
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