Marsha Hunt, actor blacklisted in Red scare, dies at 104

By the point she was in her early 30s, Marsha Hunt — tall, elegant and well-spoken — had acted in 52 motion pictures, posed on the quilt of Life journal, and been requested by every of the three main TV networks to host her personal present.

However in 1950, the completed, engaging Hunt all of the sudden fell out of favor.

“I was waiting to hear from the three networks, and I never did,” she recalled in a 2010 interview with NPR. “And my agent explained this with two words, which I had never heard before: ‘Red Channels.’ ”

Hunt, who was listed together with 150 different Hollywood personalities in an anti-communist publication that derailed her profession, died Wednesday of pure causes in her house in Los Angeles, in response to Roger C. Memos, director of a 2015 documentary in regards to the actor. Hunt was 104.

Hunt’s movie work additionally dried up through the Red scare. Over the remaining many years of her profession, she was solid in solely a dozen extra motion pictures, principally in minor roles.

“I was never subpoenaed. I was never a communist. I was never a figure of public controversy,” Hunt informed an interviewer. “I just stopped working.”

When Hunt was most in demand, she was a personality actor in motion pictures that included “Pride and Prejudice” (1940), “Blossoms in the Dust” (1941) and “The Human Comedy” (1943).

“I played four old ladies before I was 30, a Brooklyn showgirl, society snob, schoolteacher, unmarried mother, Army nurse, two nightclub singers, crime lab technician, spoiled heiress, symphony harpist, farm girl and two suicides, among others,” she informed movie historian Anthony Slide in his 1999 e-book, “Actors on Red Alert.”

Becoming a member of the board of the Display screen Actors Guild in 1946, Hunt, who had by no means been politically energetic, quickly riled conservative board members. When a set decorators’ strike disrupted Warner Brothers, she urged them to stop speculating about alleged communist agitators and focus as an alternative on the employees’ grievances.

“As I spoke, I could see elbows nudging, glances exchanged, as if to say, ‘She must be one!’,” she mentioned in an interview revealed in “Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist” (1997).

When the Home Un-American Actions Committee held hearings in 1947 on the political actions of 19 screenwriters and administrators, Hunt was among the many Hollywood celebrities who chartered a airplane and flew to Washington in protest.

After they returned, a number of the stars, together with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, backpedaled, calling their involvement ill-advised.

However Hunt and her husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., provided no such apologies.

In June 1950, “Red Channels” denounced 68 actors, 44 writers, 28 musicians, 18 administrators, 11 commentators, three announcers, a music critic, a lawyer and an accountant for his or her alleged communist leanings. They included such celebrated figures as Pete Seeger, Dorothy Parker, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, Edward R. Murrow, Lena Horne and Arthur Miller.

Hunt was listed between author Langston Hughes and director Leo Hurwitz. She was cited for six allegedly unpatriotic actions, together with giving an anti-censorship speech and signing a petition asking that the Supreme Court docket determine whether or not famous screenplay writers Dalton Trumbo and John Howard Lawson have been rightly convicted of contempt for refusing to inform HUAC whether or not they have been communists.

“And yes indeed, I had been there, I had done that, I had said this or signed something, all of them things I believed in and was amazed to discover they were considered subversive in some way,” Hunt informed NPR.

The ‘’Red Channels” checklist was one among a number of that named folks within the leisure trade. Lots of these listed discovered little work for years afterward.

Marsha Hunt chats with Roger C. Memos, who made a documentary about her in 2015.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

Born in Chicago on Oct. 17, 1917, Marcia Virginia Hunt was the daughter of Earl Hunt, a lawyer and insurance coverage government, and Minabel Hunt, a voice trainer and organist. She was raised in New York Metropolis and attended personal colleges.

As an adolescent, she took drama courses and have become a mannequin. Anticipating an appearing profession, she vowed to spell her first title so her followers would know the way to pronounce it. Therefore: Marsha.

When she was 17, a few publicists planted an merchandise within the Los Angeles Instances about “a New York artist’s model” coming to city to go to her uncle.

“I’m here purely on a vacation trip,” she informed The Instances in 1935. “I have no ambition to enter the films at the present time.”

The story had its desired impact. Studios sought out the unknown Hunt for display screen assessments. Later that 12 months she appeared in “The Virginia Judge,” the primary of 12 movies for Paramount.

She was a co-ed in “College Holiday” (1936), with George Burns, Gracie Allen and Jack Benny. Within the 1939 comedy “Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President,” Hunt, then 22, modeled an aged character after her household’s housekeeper and a great-aunt in Indiana.

“I was fascinated with older women’s carriage, the way they sat, the way they worked their mouths, the way they squinted through their glasses,” she informed an interviewer when she was in her 80s.

Hunt labored alongside John Wayne, Laurence Olivier, Lana Turner, Greer Garson and different main stars.

After her point out in “Red Channels,” she appeared with Charles Boyer and Louis Jourdan in “The Happy Time” (1952). Throughout filming, she later recalled, she was pressured to signal a full-page advert declaring her opposition to communism.

She refused.

Whereas Hunt’s movie roles grew sparse, dwell theater was comparatively unaffected by the blacklists. Hunt starred in six Broadway performs and as many as 30 regional productions.

Her final main position was in “Johnny Got His Gun,” a 1971 antiwar movie primarily based on a e-book by Trumbo, the once-ostracized screenwriter. Trumbo, who wrote the scripts for “Exodus” and “Spartacus,” amongst others, additionally directed it.

Through the years, Hunt grew to become an activist, engaged on refugee causes for the United Nations, serving to organizations for the homeless in Los Angeles and turning into an early supporter of same-sex marriage. Within the early Nineteen Eighties, she was named honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks.

Movie buffs honored her at festivals, singling out motion pictures resembling the noir crime story “Kid Glove Killer” (1942) and the early Holocaust indictment “None Shall Escape” (1944). Her profession was captured in Memos’ documentary, “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity.”

At each look and in each interview, she was requested about her offscreen position in “Red Channels.”

“The only real regret I have,” she informed NPR, “is that I may be remembered for having been blacklisted rather than for the work that I have done as an actor.”

Hunt’s husband Robert Presnell Jr. died in 1976. An earlier marriage resulted in divorce. Her solely baby, a daughter, died shortly after start. Based on a discover despatched by Memos, Hunt was attended at her dying by a nephew, actor/director Allan Hunt, and her buddy and government supervisor, Elizabeth Lauritsen.

Chawkins is a former Instances employees author.