Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crazy about Marsha Hunt!

Marsha Hunt at a cinema convention

There is so much to discover and rediscover about the movies from Hollywood's classic studio era. Sometimes it's those performers who are so good that it is easy to take them for granted. Marsha Hunt is such an actress. A beautiful woman with talent, she is like a character actress trapped inside a leading lady.

Born in Chicago in 1917 and showing an early aptitude for theatre Marsha was signed by Paramount Pictures in 1938 and made her debut in The Virginia Judge co-starring Robert Cummings. She would be very busy for the next ten years appearing in over 50 movies of varying quality though the quality of her work never varied.

Throughout the 50s work slowed down for Marsha and her husband screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr. due to the short-sighted and unnecessary blacklist. Such things don't touch true talent or a vibrant marriage that lasted 40 years until Presnell's death in 1986. As those bad days faded she returned to the small screen appearing in everything from Zane Grey Theatre (four times), Ben Casey, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, The Defenders, Marcus Welby, MD, Ironside, Police Story and Murder, She Wrote.

Broadway also claimed some of her time with six plays during the 50s and 60s including Shaw's The Devil's Disciple in 1950 co-starring Maurice Evans, Victory Jory and Dennis King, and replacing Nancy Olson in the mega-hit The Tunnel of Love in 1958.

I would like to focus on some of my all-time favourite Marsha Hunt performances.

Marsha as Mary Bennett in 1940's Pride and Prejudice

Marsha sparkles, as Mrs. Bennett (Mary Boland) puts it, as the awkward Bennett girl, Mary. An absolutely delightful comic turn from the 20-year-old that almost steals the show in a film cast with veteran scene stealers such as Boland, Edmund Gwenn and Edna Mae Oliver.

Libbers take note that in 1942's Kid Glove Killer directed by Fred Zinnemann Marsha is assistant to forensic detective Van Heflin in a tightly paced, fun-for-all thriller. None Shall Escape directed by Andre de Toth in 1944 is a timely story of Nazi responsibility co-starring Alexander Knox and is not to be missed.

The Valley of Decision from 1945 is a glorious soaper starring Greer Garson and Gregory Peck. Marsha embodies the role of a slightly spoiled heiress with a feather-head and a big heart. She's wonderful.

Jules Dassin's delightful A Letter for Evie from 1946 is a war-time love story with a letter at the crux of the plot. If you have the chance to catch it, don't miss this one. Carnegie Hall from 1947 features Marsha as a stage mother. The Inside Story is an adorable comedy from 1948 co-starring the adorable William Lundigan. I have yet to see Mary Ryan, Detective made in 1949, but perhaps TCM will find it in their stash from Columbia. A must-see is 1952's The Happy Time starring Charles Boyer and directed by Richard Fleischer.

The glamorous Marsha Hunt

Top of the list for us noir fans is Anthony Mann's Raw Deal from 1948. Dennis O'Keefe is sorely wronged by mob boss Raymond Burr, but finds solace with old girlfriend Claire Trevor and social worker Marsha. Wow!

I mentioned that discovery and rediscovery is at the core of my fondness for classic movies. I'm looking forward to discovering more treasures from the incredible Marsha Hunt. I'm crazy about her!


  1. Great post! I have enjoyed Ms. Hunt in everything I have seen of hers. Thanks for spotlighting her.

  2. Thank you.

    No pressure, but I'm expecting an extended, humourous post on your blog about the joys of moving. Whenever.

  3. CW, I am trying to figure out exactly how to recount my tales of know, before it happens again. You'll be the first to know, I am sure. :)

  4. What a great actress- thanks for giving her such a lovely birthday tribute!

    I think my favorite of her films is The Affairs of Martha -- with Valley of Decision being a close second :)