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Dec. 3, 2022

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Marsha Hunt, Golden Age star and victim of blacklist, dies at 104

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TORONTO — Marsha Hunt, one of the last surviving actors from Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age of the 1930s and 1940s who worked with performers ranging from Laurence Olivier to Andy Griffith in a career disrupted for a time by the McCarthy-era blacklist, has died. She was 104.

Hunt, who appeared in more than 100 movies and TV shows, died Wednesday at her home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., said Roger Memos, the writer-director of the 2015 documentary “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity.”

A Chicago native, she arrived in Hollywood in 1935 and over the next 15 years appeared in dozens of films, from the Preston Sturges comedy “Easy Living” to the adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” that starred Olivier and Greer Garson.

She was well under 40 when MGM named her “Hollywood’s Youngest Character Actress.” By the early 1950s, she was enough of a star to appear on the cover of Life magazine. She seemed set to thrive in the new medium of television when suddenly “the work dried up,” she recalled in 1996.

The reason, she learned from her agent, was that the communist-hunting Red Channels publication had revealed that she attended a peace conference in Stockholm and other supposedly suspicious gatherings. Alongside Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Danny Kaye, Hunt also went to Washington, D.C., in 1947 to protest the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was conducting a witch hunt for communists in the film industry.

“I’d made 54 movies in my first 16 years in Hollywood,” Hunt said in 1996. “In the last 45 years, I’ve made eight. That shows what a blacklist can do to a career.”

Hunt concentrated on the theater, where the blacklist was not observed, until she began occasionally getting film work again in the late 1950s. She appeared in the touring companies of “The Cocktail Party,” “The Lady’s Not for Burning” and “The Tunnel of Love,” and on Broadway in “The Devil’s Disciple,” “Legend of Sarah” and “The Paisley Convertible.”

Marcia Virginia Hunt (she changed the spelling of her first name later) was born in Chicago and grew up in New York City, daughter of a lawyer-insurance executive and a voice teacher.

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