Marsha Hunt, a veteran actress of the Golden Age of film, radio and Broadway who later saw her career languish because of her protests against the notorious Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), died of natural causes on September 7 in Los Angeles .
Her caregivers, nephew actor/director Alan Hunt and Elizabeth Lorritsen, confirmed her death.
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Hunt starred in more than 60 films for Paramount, MGM and Republic, beginning her career in 1935. She also appeared in more than 30 staged productions, including six on Broadway.
In the early days of television, Hunt appeared as Viola Twelfth night, the first Shakespeare play to be broadcast coast to coast. Hosted and starred twice Your show, with Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner. Numerous live and recorded guest appearances followed over the decades.
But her name appeared in the Red Channels, an anti-communist pamphlet said to have considerable influence in television and film studios.
The Red Channels blamed Hunt’s involvement with the Committee on the First Amendment, which included Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The group went to Washington in 1947 to protest the imprisonment of 10 writers, directors and producers for contempt of Congress. They had refused to reveal their political allegiances to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
While Hunt was never imprisoned or charged with any crime, work became harder to find. The Washington Post reports that Hunt twice signed anti-communist oaths of allegiance to get jobs in film and television, but that she drew the line by taking out an ad in trade papers.
Hunt worked intermittently after the Blacklist era, including a role as the mother of a disfigured war veteran in 1971 Johnny took his gun» (1971).
Instead, she put her energies into activism, serving the community, citizens, and national organizations dedicated to humanitarian causes.
A critically acclaimed documentary about her remarkable life, Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity, released in 2015.
Hunt is survived by nieces and nephews; Donations in her memory may be made to LA Family Housing. lafh.org.
Hunt, a former Screen Actors Guild board member who joined the guild in 1938, received the SAG-AFTRA Founders Award in 2018. In a statement, the guild said Hunt “was not only a fantastic actress and writer, but he was also a devoted philanthropist who fought for what was right. She was passionate beyond compare and her work both on and off screen will stand the test of time.”
Hunt served on the SAG board from March 1945 to November 1947. In October 1947, just three months after the death of her newborn daughter, she fought to defend free speech when she and her husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., joined the Committee on the First Amendment. Hunt and other Commission officials, including former SAG board member Humphrey Bogart and wife Lauren Bacall, traveled to Washington, D.C., to the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings to support the First Amendment rights of “Hollywood Ten. “
Her outspokenness cost her a seat on the SAG board, as the nominating committee did not select her to run for re-election next month. A longtime liberal but never a Communist, Hunt’s burgeoning career came to a screeching halt after her name appeared in the June 1950 edition of Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television — three months after she graced the cover of LIFE magazine. She was blacklisted, but survived and put her energies into humanitarian work.
Despite rarely working in film after being blacklisted, Hunt devoted her efforts to volunteering with various organizations such as UNICEF and the United Nations, where she continued to fight for justice and humanity. She also served on the advisory board of directors for the San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center, raised funds for a children’s shelter for homeless children, and was named honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks, California, in 1983. A documentary film about her life, Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity: A Life of Acting and Activism was released in 2015.
Hunt reflected on her life and career: “My life has been a great ride with more than its share of highs. Even the lowest points taught me and led me to higher ones. In my teenage years, I thought I was born to act, but when my acting career was put on hold, I discovered a wonderful world of challenges, which became opportunities, opening up my life far beyond acting.” Hunt said. “I am very grateful for all the good fortune I have been given in my blessed life.”
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