Marsha Hunt, 1917-2022: An Appreciation of One of Hollywood’s Genuine Heroines


The death this week of actress and activist Martha Hunt is a historic watershed and a personal loss. Martha was one of the last living actors to begin her film career during the Great Depression in 1935. She became part of a now-gone Hollywood, first at Paramount and then at MGM, linking signing talent to studios where artists had little say in their choices of roles and careers. Still, she thrived in the studio system, becoming a little less like a real movie star and more like a consummate professional actress.

Martha’s career was derailed by the blacklist, a period of perfidy in American history that was endlessly documented and misunderstood. She was never a communist or a radical, she was an outspoken liberal who refused to accept that her voice was marginalized by the sexism and politics that were prevalent at the time. Martha is the last survivor of the First Amendment Committee, an action by screenwriter Philip Dunn, actress Myrna Lowe, and directors John Huston and William Wyler of film actors, directors and writers group. Members of the group flew to Washington, D.C., on October 27, 1947, to protest a HUAC hearing investigating the effects of so-called subversive communism on the film industry. From a public relations standpoint, the group’s involvement backfired, and many in the group then had to seek political cover. After publishing her booklet “Channel Red” in June 1950, in which she falsely portrayed Martha and 150 other artists, journalists and writers as disruptors manipulating the entertainment system, she had trouble finding a job in Hollywood .

Martha told me she was required to sign a loyalty oath in order to appear in “Happy Times” in 1952, but she was never one to indulge in personal misfortune – Martha was the original “Lemonade from Lemons” “An optimistic life. Instead, she prefers to recall her husband in the movies, the suave Charles Boyer. “Every woman should have the opportunity to marry Boyer, even if it’s just in the movies,” she recalls with a laugh .

There is a story about a blacklist that Martha and I experienced firsthand. In 2007, my wife and I took Martha to see “Trumbo,” a documentary about the great screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose son I know Christopher. Of course, Martha knew Dalton before and after Dalton was blacklisted, who would be serving a prison sentence for contempt of Congress. She also appeared in the 1971 Trumbo adaptation of “Johnny With a Gun.” Watching the movie and having Martha point out where she was sitting and what she was thinking at the time, as a news clip of the HUAC hearing in the movie, was shown to her at the 1947 hearing, akin to revisiting history.

At one point, a letter from Trumbo was read about the fate of producer Adrian Scott. Scott is married to actress Anne Shirley, one of Martha’s best friends. The letter describes Scott’s downfall as a result of being blacklisted: he was fired as RKO’s top producer, his marriage to Anne Shirley ended, he now lives alone in a small house in the valley, Writing the TV series for “Robin’s Adventures,” Hood “pseudonym” sat on a chair with a typewriter balanced on a milk crate, with only pictures of Franklin Roosevelt adorning the bare walls of his home. Martha let out a groan and put her hand to her heart. When I asked her if she was okay, she nodded and said, “You know I wasn’t politically savvy at the time, but I knew Adrian very well and admired him a lot. I think he’s the best person I’ve ever met. One, so if he’s for something, I know it’s the right thing to do.”

Marsha Hunt (Courtesy of Alan K. Rode)

Doing the right thing is Martha’s creed and there is never anything hypocritical or selfish. Her incredibly long and fulfilling life cannot be detailed here – I heartily recommend Roger Memos’ Celluloid Valentine’s “Martha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity” (2015) for a complete look at Martha’s life and career . From her work at the SAG and the United Nations, to helping the homeless as the ceremonial mayor of Sherman Oaks, to her beautiful fashion-centric desk book The Way We Dress, Marsha says as she walks.

On the personal side: Martha and I met a few times before, but we became close after I invited her as a special guest at the Castro Theater Black City Film Festival in San Francisco. After being interviewed by Eddie Muller and charming the audience, Marsha could have been elected as mayor of San Francisco, hands down. My wife Jemma and I acted as Marsha’s escorts – she was 89 at the time – we The three got close at meals and screenings, talking about everything together. Martha signed a poster for me in the Black City that read “To Ellen, my White Knight of the Black City.” I was hooked.

Marsha Hunt, 1917-2022: An Appreciation of One of Hollywood’s Genuine Heroines Screen Shot 2022 09 10 at 4

Martha Hunt and Raymond Burr in “The Original Deal” (1948)

Party at Martha’s, dining out, screenings in Hollywood, helping her choose a wardrobe for Eddie Mueller’s short film “The Inquisitor,” she’s in Hollywood’s Black City and I’m in Palm Springs. Martha was one of the first people we invited over after we settled in our current house. Our energetic cat Jack climbed onto the back of her chair and perched on her shoulders as she sampled some of Gemma’s treats. Martha, who was always calm and calm, calmly raised her head and asked. “Dear Alan. Should he do this?”

Being with Martha is empowering; her unwavering optimism may seem childish to some, but it’s contagious. I remember telling her half-seriously that after a night at her favorite Indian restaurant in North Hollywood, I was motivated to take on a big project to do something good, something a little ambitious, like trying to end world hunger— — A question from Martha herself who has been involved in her work with the United Nations and the Sherman Oaks homeless. Spending time with her made me grow as a person. Martha has met countless people in her life and I believe she has had a positive impact on each of them. Her stories about Hollywood and the great and near-great are voluminous and often spontaneous. “I already told you that Orson and I went to see Ersa Kitt’s cabaret show when I was in London, didn’t I?” is a typical opening line. Another time, as I sat in front of her piano and played the keys, she mentioned that her late husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., had a friend named “Leonard” who she played on her piano Some music composed for the movie. Further investigation revealed that it was Leonard Bernstein who tried the musical cues from his “On the Waterfront” score on Martha’s piano. I watched my fingers touch the keys, happily wondering if I should wash my hands again.

One of my most cherished memories of Martha happened one evening when I hosted Glenn Ford’s Double Act at the Egyptian Theatre to launch Peter Ford’s biography of his father. The theater was packed, and many survivors of Old Hollywood were present. Right in front of the audience, I’m still standing at my feet, a little nervous. But the show went well, and after that Martha and I sat in the hall. Suddenly, she looked me directly, put her hand in my face and said, “Ellen, I’m so proud of you. You’re really good. You can do this!” Martha offered some when I needed it Unsolicited sincere professional affirmation.

Marsha Hunt, 1917-2022: An Appreciation of One of Hollywood’s Genuine Heroines Screen Shot 2022 09 10 at 4

Martha Hunt and Alan K. Lord

While this page has now opened up most of Martha’s history – the golden age of Hollywood; the blacklist; the United Nations, when it was universally seen as an entity that was forever good – what I will always remember is her selflessness and wisdom, and the most sincere interest and empathy for others. Most importantly, I will always cherish our friendship. Martha Hunt holds a special place in the sky; she will always be a shining star.

Renowned film historian Alan K. Lord Is the author of books such as “Michael Curtis, Life in Film.” He is the director and treasurer of the Film Noir Foundation and the host and producer of the annual Arthur Lyon Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

!function(f, b, e, v, n, t, s) {
if (f.fbq) return;
n = f.fbq = function() {
n.callMethod ?
n.callMethod.apply(n, arguments) : n.queue.push(arguments);
if (!f._fbq) f._fbq = n;
n.push = n;
n.loaded = !0;
n.version = ‘2.0’;
n.queue = [];
t = b.createElement(e);
t.async = !0;
t.src = v;
s = b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];
s.parentNode.insertBefore(t, s);
}(window, document, ‘script’,
fbq(‘init’, ‘586935388485447’);
fbq(‘init’, ‘315552255725686’);
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

The post Marsha Hunt, 1917-2022: An Appreciation of One of Hollywood’s Genuine Heroines appeared first on Stars Obituary.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.