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Marsha Hunt, Actress Turned Activist, Is Dead at 104

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Appearing in more than 50 films between 1935 and 1949 and seemingly on the road to stardom until her career was marred by the Hollywood Blacklist, Marsha Hunt spent the rest of her career. But she was as activist as she was — the actress died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 104 years old.

Her death was announced by Roger C. Memoz, director of the 2015 documentary Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity.

Early in her career, Ms. Hunt was one of Hollywood’s most busy and versatile actresses, taking roles both big and small in a variety of films, including romances, period dramas and the dark and stylish crime dramas she has become known for. was playing as film noir. She appeared in “Pride and Prejudice” with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier in 1940, and in 1943 Mickey She appeared in “Human Her Comedy” with Rooney. She has appeared in shows like ‘Murder, She Wrote’ and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’.

But in the meantime, her career hit a roadblock.

Hunt’s troubles began in October 1947 when she traveled to Washington as part of a group called the First Amendment Commission, along with other film luminaries such as John Huston, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I was. Their mission was to observe and protest the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The commission was investigating communist incursions into the film industry.

Many of those who made that trip have since denounced it as ill-advised, but Ms. Hunt did not. His only misconduct was signing a petition to support causes related to civil liberties.

Her status in Hollywood was already precarious when the influential pamphlet “Red Channel” was published in 1950 containing the names of people in the entertainment industry who were said to be communists or communist supporters. was. Bernstein and Marsha Hunt.

By then she had earned accolades for playing Viola in the 1949 live Twelfth Night. At the time, Jack Her Gould of The New York Times called her “an actress of striking, mellow beauty even in her home”. in Shakespeare’s poems and couplets. George Her Bernard in 1950 Her star in a revival of her show The Devil’s Disciple It was the subject of a cover article. Still, the movie offers pretty much everything.

In 1955, Ms. Hunt and her husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., traveled the world for a year because there were few jobs to keep her at home. result of her journey She told the website The Globalist In 2008, she “fell in love with the earth.”

She has become an active supporter of the United Nations and has spoken on behalf of the World Health Organization and other UN agencies. She wrote and produced her 1960 television documentary “A Call From the Stars” about the plight of refugees.

She also tackled issues close to home. From 1983 until 2001, she was Sherman of Los Angeles. organized a coalition.

Marsha Virginia Hunt (she later spelled her first name) was born in Chicago on October 17, 1917, to lawyer Earl Hunt and vocal coach Minabel (Morris) Hunt. Her family soon moved to New York City, and Ms. Hunt attended her PS9 and Horace Her Mann Girls’ School in Manhattan.

A talent scout who saw her in a school play in 1935 offered her a screen test. Nothing came of her offer, but that summer she visited her uncle in Hollywood and was eventually chased by several studios. She signed with Paramount, and that year she made her screen debut in a quickly forgotten film called ‘The Virginia Judge’.

She soon landed small roles in a dizzying string of films. In “Easy Living” (1937) starring Jean Arthur, she had an unbilled but important role as the woman whose coat fell on her head in the final scene. And bigger roles soon followed, especially after joining MGM, the most prestigious studio.

In 1943, she was the subject of a prophetic profile in the New York Herald Tribune. “She’s a quiet, well-bred, good-looking, banked hearth-hidden person,” the profile says. “She’s been in Hollywood for seven years and has taken 34 pictures. But now you can start counting her days until she’s one of the top movie namesakes.”

It never happened. However, in the aftermath of her blacklisting, she began working frequently in television, where she appeared in shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Ben She’s Casey’. She continued her activity on the small screen until the late 1980s.

Her only notable film at the time was Johnny Got a Gun (1971), an anti-war film written and directed by Dalton Trumbo, also a victim of the Hollywood blacklist. She played the mother of a wounded soldier.

credit…Nick Ut/Associated Press

Hunt’s marriage to Paramount junior executive Jerry Hopper ended in divorce in 1945. The following year she married Mr. Presnell.their marriage lasted until his death in 1986She has several nieces and nephews.

Ms. Hunt’s dedication to political and social causes has not diminished over the years.

of Interview with Fox News in 2021she dismisses the notion that celebrities should avoid speaking out on political issues (“Nonsense — we are all citizens of the world”) and describes what she considers to be the documentary’s essential message. explained:

“When injustice happens, stand by your convictions. Yield and silence is what they want you to do.

Peter Keepnews contributed to the report.

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