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Jeffrey Hunter (November 25, 1926 – May 27, 1969) was a film and television actor.
He was born Henry Herman McKinnies, Jr. in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he graduated from Whitefish Bay High School, and began acting in local theater and radio in his early teens. He served stateside in the United States Navy in World War II, then studied drama at Northwestern University.
In 1950, while a graduate student in radio at the University of California, Los Angeles and appearing in a college play, he was spotted by talent scouts and offered a two-year motion picture contract by 20th Century Fox that was eventually extended to 1959. He made his Hollywood debut in Fourteen Hours (1951), had star billing by Red Skies of Montana (1952), and first billing in Sailor of the King (1953). Read Full Bio >>
Hunter's handsome looks and gentle manner recalled two earlier Fox stars, Tyrone Power and the young Henry Fonda. A loan-out to co-star with John Wayne in the title roles of the now-classic western The Searchers (1956) began the first of three pictures he made with director John Ford, followed by The Last Hurrah (1958) and Sergeant Rutledge (1960).
Ford also recommended Hunter to director Nicholas Ray for the role of Jesus in the biblical King of Kings (1961), a difficult part met by critical reaction that ranged from praise to ridicule. Among an all-star cast in the World War II battle epic The Longest Day (1962), he provided a climactic heroic act of leading an ultimately successful attempt to breach the defense wall atop Normandy's Omaha Beach but dying in the process.
Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley in The Searchers (1956)
Having guest starred on television dramas since the mid-1950s, Hunter was now offered a two-year contract by Warner Bros. that included starring as circuit-riding Texas lawyer Temple Lea Houston in the NBC series Temple Houston (1963-64), which Hunter's production company co-produced.
Although Temple Houston did not survive its first season, NBC offered him the lead role of Captain Christopher Pike in the pilot episode ("The Cage") of a new science fiction series, Star Trek. His pensive take on the role was in contrast to the more idiosyncratic style of William Shatner, who took the lead role (that of a different captain, James T. Kirk) after Hunter, deciding to concentrate on motion pictures such as Brainstorm, declined to film a second Star Trek pilot requested by NBC in 1965. But later that year Hunter was filming the pilot for yet another NBC series, the espionage thriller Journey Into Fear, which the network failed to pick up.
With the demise of the studio contract system in the early 1960s and the outsourcing of much feature production, Hunter, like many other leading men of the 1950s, had to find work in B movies produced in Europe, Hong Kong, and Mexico, with the occasional television guest part in Hollywood.
He married actress Emily McLaughlin in February, 1969. During filming a stunt went bad. The window of the car he was driving was set to explode and instead it imploded. Seemingly unhurt he continued with the scene, but less than three months later, while flying back to the U.S. from Spain after filming Viva America!, he suffered the signs of a stroke. After recovering at a hospital in Los Angeles, he suffered another stroke while at home, causing a fall and a skull fracture. He died the following day from his injuries, and was interred in the Glen Haven Memorial Park cemetery in Sylmar, California.
Hunter's first marriage was to actress Barbara Rush (1950–1955) with whom he had a son, Christopher, in 1952. From 1957–1967, he was married to Dusty Bartlett. He adopted her son, Steele, and the couple had two children, Todd and Scott. << Less Bio
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