vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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The magnificent Marsha Hunt

There aren't too many people left who knew Carole Lombard, but one of them is appearing at an entertainment memorabilia show in Baltimore Thursday through Saturday. Her name is Marsha Hunt, a fine actress of the '30s and '40s who had her share of screen success, and might have had more had it not been for post-World War II anti-Communist hysteria.

Hunt never made a film with Lombard, but Marsha's film career began at Paramount in 1935, so they were studio stablemates for about two years. Carla Valderrama, who's working on a Lombard biography, has reportedly interviewed Marsha about Carole.

There's also another Hunt-Lombard tie-in: Both portrayed Jane Mason in "Lux Radio Theater" adaptations of Carole's film "Made For Each Other." Lombard did it in 1940, with Fred MacMurray taking the role James Stewart had done on screen the previous year; when Stewart got around to doing a version in late 1945 -- nearly four years after Carole's death -- Hunt was his leading lady. (One wonders if the scripts were sufficiently similar to enable "creating" a Lombard-Stewart version...or, for that matter, one starring Hunt and MacMurray.)

Born in Chicago on Oct. 17, 1917, Hunt long aspired to be an actress, and in her teen years was a John Powers model and sang on radio. She went to California in 1934, played coy about her acting ambitions, and the gambit worked as Paramount gave her a screen test and signed her. Hunt made about a dozen films at Paramount, usually in second leads, probably getting her most exposure in the George Burns and Gracie Allen movie "College Holiday." But, like Lombard in the early thirties, Paramount really didn't know what to do with her; Marsha's last film there was opposite John Wayne, still relegated to western programmers, in the oater "Born To The West" (1937).

Hunt freelanced for a while, then got a contract at MGM, where she may have occasionally seen Lombard when she dropped by to visit Clark Gable. The films at Metro were a little better (including "Cheers For Miss Bishop," a remake of "The Trial Of Mary Dugan" and "Blossoms In The Dust"), the parts a bit bigger. As the forties went on, Hunt gained more visibility with films like "The Human Comedy," Cry Havoc" and "Music For Millions," though at star-studded MGM she remained on a slightly lower tier.

After World War II, she continued her success with good roles in "Smash-Up: The Story Of A Woman" and "Raw Deal." Ironically, the latter film's title signaled what would be next for her.

Since the mid-1930s, Hunt had been associated with liberal causes (and in fact, she joined Jean Harlow as Hollywood representatives to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday celebration in January 1937); she had signed a number of petitions and was a member of the Committee for the First Amendment. In the postwar witch-hunt Red scare, Hunt and her husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., were never officially blacklisted, but Marsha -- who began working in television in 1949 -- rarely got work during the early to mid-1950s.

Hunt guested in a variety of series, from "Gunsmoke" and "My Three Sons" to "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits." (In the late 1980s, she appeared on an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation.") She wrote a book on vintage Hollywood fashion, "The Way We Wore," in 1993. (Appropriately, her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is front of the fabled Larry Edmunds Bookshop.)

She worked in the civil rights movement, and was active for UNICEF and the Red Cross. (She serves on the advisory board of directors of the nonprofit for the San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center.) She even still occasionally acts in small roles.

Hunt will appear at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in suburban Baltimore, along with Dawn Wells of "Gilligan's Island" fame and other notables. To learn more, go to http://www.midatlanticnostalgiaconvention.com/.

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