Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crazy about Marsha Hunt!

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, I would describe Marsha Hunt as 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 1950s 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 The Twilight Zone: Spur of the Moment (pictured above with Diana Hyland) to Zane Grey Theatre (four times), Ben Casey, Gunsmoke, The Defenders, Marcus Welby, MD, Ironside, Police Story and Murder, She Wrote.

Broadway also claimed some of her time with six plays during the 1950s and 1960s including Shaw's The Devil's Disciple in 1950 co-starring Maurice Evans, Victor Jory and Dennis King, and replacing Nancy Olson in the mega-hit The Tunnel of Love in 1958.

Let's look at some of my all-time favourite Marsha Hunt performances.

Marsha sparkles, as Mrs. Bennett (Mary Boland) puts it, as the awkward Bennett girl, Mary in 1940s Pride and Prejudice. It is an absolutely delightful comic turn from the 23-year-old that almost steals the show in a film cast with veteran thieves 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 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, and Hume Cronyn and John Carroll vying for her hand. On my wish list is Mary Ryan, Detective made in 1949, purely because I love the title. Keeping my fingers crossed that TCM will find it in their stash from Columbia.

Top of the heap for we 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 lovelorn social worker Marsha. Wow!

Marsha plays the sensible, as she sees herself, mother of the eccentric Bonnard family of 1920s Ottawa in 1952s The Happy Time starring Charles Boyer and directed by Richard Fleischer. I encourage everyone to seek out this charming film.

Along with the love and creativity Marsha shared in her theatrical/film career, she carried that same dedication into a life of activism and service for humanitarian causes; a truly inspiring woman.

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 :)

    1. Those are such excellent movies. You have great taste.



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