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Jeffrey Hunter (November 25, 1926 – May 27, 1969) was a film and television actor.

Early life

Hunter was born Henry Herman McKinnies, Jr., in New Orleans, Louisianamarker, but raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsinmarker from 1930 onward, where he graduated from Whitefish Bay High Schoolmarker. He began acting in local theater and radio in his early teens. He served stateside in the United States Navy, in World War II, then studied theatre at Northwestern Universitymarker, 1946–1949.

Acting career

In 1950, while a graduate student in radio at the University of California, Los Angelesmarker and appearing in a college play, he was spotted by talent scouts and offered a two-year motion picture contract by 20th Century-Fox that was eventually extended to 1959. He made his Hollywood debut in Fourteen Hours, had star billing by Red Skies of Montana (1952), and first billing in Sailor of the King (1953).

A loan-out to co-star with John Wayne in the title roles of the now-classic western The Searchers began the first of three pictures he made with director John Ford; the other two films he made with Ford were The Last Hurrah and Sergeant Rutledge.

Ford also recommended Hunter to director Nicholas Ray for the role of Jesus in the Biblical film King of Kings, a difficult part met by critical reaction that ranged from praise to ridicule. Among an all-star cast in the World War II battle epic The Longest Day, he provided a climactic heroic act of leading an ultimately successful attempt to breach the defense wall atop Normandy's Omaha Beachmarker but dying in the process.

Having guest-starred on television dramas since the mid-1950s, Hunter was now offered a two-year contract by Warner Brothers that included starring as circuit-riding Texas lawyer Temple Lea Houston, the youngest son of Sam Houston, in the NBC series Temple Houston (1963-64), which Hunter's production company co-produced.


Although Temple Houston did not survive its first season, NBC offered him the lead role of Captain Christopher Pike in "The Cage", the pilot episode of a new science fiction series, Star Trek. Hunter decided to concentrate on motion pictures such as Brainstorm, and declined to film a second Star Trek pilot requested by NBC in 1965;Star Trek creator and producer Gene Roddenberry wrote to him on April 5, 1965:
I am told you have decided not to go ahead with Star Trek.
This has to be your own decision, of course, and I must respect it.
You may be certain I hold no grudge or ill feelings and expect to continue to reflect publicly and privately the high regard I learned for you during the production of our pilot.
David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 244. ISBN 978-0451454188. the lead in the series was then made into a different character, James T. Kirk, a role given to William Shatner. Later that year, Hunter filmed the pilot for yet another NBC series, the espionage thriller Journey Into Fear, which the network did not pick up.

With the demise of the studio contract system in the early 1960s and the outsourcing of much feature production, Hunter, like many other leading men of the 1950s, had to find work in B movies produced in Europe, Hong Kongmarker, and Mexicomarker, with the occasional television guest part in Hollywood.

Death

Hunter suffered a stroke while flying back to the U.S. from Spain after filming Viva America!. While recovering at his home, Hunter suffered another stroke, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs, and sustain a skull fracture. He died from a cerebral hemorrhage on May 27, 1969.

Hunter was interred in the Glen Haven Memorial Park cemetery, in Sylmar, Californiamarker.

Personal life

Hunter's first marriage was to actress Barbara Rush (1950–1955) with whom he had a son, Christopher, in 1952. From 1957–1967, he was married to model Dusty Bartlett. He adopted her son, Steele, and the couple had two other children, Todd and Scott. In February 1969, he married actress Emily McLaughlin.

Selective filmography



References

  1. Turner Classic Movies
  2. J.D. Spiro, " Happy in Hollywood" (interview), The Milwaukee Journal, July 4, 1965.
  3. Herbert F. Sollow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Pocket Books, 1996. ISBN 0671896288.
  4. Lee Goldberg, Unsold Television Pilots 1955-1989, Backinprint.com, 2001, ISBN 978-0595194292.
  5. Find a Grave site


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