Marsha Hunt, Last Leading Lady of the ’30s, Blacklist Victim, Dies @ 104

RIP to beautiful-inside-and-out Marsha Hunt, who died September 7, 2022, at the ripe old age of 104.

Hunt in her glory days — what could possibly go wrong? (Image via film still)

According to a Facebook page for the 2015 doc about her life, Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity, Hunt died on September 7, 2022, at the Sherman Oaks, California, home in which she'd lived for over 75 years.

Interestingly, she was set to play Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939), but lost out to Olivia de Havilland ... who also lived to be 104.

Marsha was born October 17, 1917, in Chicago, and her family relocated to NYC. She studied acting there and in the U.K. at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art ahead of an arrival in Hollywood at the tender age of 17.

She was actually signed to Paramount after being offered a screen test thanks to the fact that Zeppo Marx saw a fetching photo of her in the local paper. Her first film was The Virginia Judge (1935), and she also worked with pre-fame John Wayne in the 1937 western Born to the West.

In my opinion, she was quite memorable in Gentle Julia (1936) with Jane Withers.

At a 2012 screening of Gentle Julia — Carleton Carpenter died this past January, and Jane Withers died in 2021. (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Though dropped by Paramount, she was picked up by MGM.

Along the way, she made films like These Glamour Girls (1939) with Lana Turner, Pride and Prejudice (1940) with Laurence Olivier and a favorite of hers, 1943's Cry 'Havoc'."

She was — by far — the longest-surviving member of this class! (Image via Photoplay)

In 1944, she was voted a Top 10 Star of Tomorrow, a wildly diverse list: (1) Sonny Tufts, (2) James Craig, (3) Gloria DeHaven, (4) Roddy McDowall, (5) June Allyson, (6) Barry Fitzgerald, (7) Marsha Hunt, (8) Sydney Greenstreet, (9) Turhan Bey, and (10) Helmut Dantine.

She made a historically important appearance on the fledgling medium of television in 1949 in the first coast-to-coast broadcast of a Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night on Philco Television Playhouse, and starred on Broadway half a dozen times. In 1950, she was in Broadway's The Devil's Disciple, which led to a full cover of Life Magazine.

She had it all.

But in 1950, Hunt and her husband were blacklisted as communists for daring to speak out against the House Un-American Activities. Her film career never recovered, but she many many TV appearances, including on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1958), Murder, She Wrote (1985), Matlock (1986) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988).

One triumphant post-blacklist film, Johnny Gun His Gun (1971), was written and directed by fellow blacklist victim Dalton Trumbo.

Much of her life, though, was devoted to humanitarian causes and work for the U.N.

She retired from acting after 2008, after appearing in the TV film Empire State Building Murders and a short called The Grand Inquisitor, but participated in the excellent doc about her life Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity (2015).

Hunt was preceded in death by her second husband, and by a daughter born prematurely in 1947 who had lived just one day.

To my knowledge, she was the last adult leading lady of the 1930s, and the oldest living Golden Age of Hollywood "star."

Taking her bows in 2012 (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

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