Happy 99th Birthday, Marsha Hunt!

The lovely Marsha Hunt, born Marcia Virginia Hunt in Chicago, Illinois, is celebrating her 99th birthday today! Here are some MA Did-You-Knows:

  • The daughter of an attorney and voice teacher, Hunt and her family moved to New York City when she was three years old. She took an interest in performing at an early age, appearing in school plays and performing at church functions.
  • After graduating from NYC’s Horace Mann High School (at age 16!), she worked as a model and as a singer on the radio while studying drama at the Theodora Irvine’s Studio of the Theatre (where Cornel Wilde was one of her classmates)
  • At 17 (and accompanied by her older sister), Hunt moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in motion pictures. She was quickly signed by Paramount Pictures and in 1935 made her debut in The Virginia Judge. She was relegated to mostly B pictures at Paramount and when her career failed to take off, she began to freelance at various studios, including many of the Poverty Row outfits.
  • In 1939, Hunt signed with MGM, where she was given solid parts but rarely lead roles. Her association with MGM came to an end in 1945 and she began freelance again (it was during this period that she appeared as the “good girl” counterpart to Claire Trevor‘s “bad girl” in Anthony Mann‘s classic film noir Raw Deal (1948).
  • In 1948, Hunt decided to give Broadway a try, debuting in Joy to the World. She appeared in a number of other shows as well, including a turn as Anna in a production of The King and I. She also appeared on Broadway with Johnny Carson, in a production called Tunnel of Love.
  • Hunt was a lifelong liberal and in the early 1950s, some of her past political activities unfairly came back to haunt her. Although she was never called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, her name appeared in the infamous Red Channels pamphlet that purported to expose Communists and other subversives in the radio and television industries. She made just three films in the next eight years.
  • Semi-retired thereafter, Marcia has devoted herself to humanitarian causes and organizations, among them UNICEF, The March of Dimes and The Red Cross.
  • Hunt was named the honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks, California, in 1983 and still holds that “post” today.
  • In 1993, Hunt published a book on fashion entitled The Way We Wore.
  • In 1998, Hunt received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award for her charitable and humanitarian activities.

Happy birthday, Marsha Hunt, and many happy returns of the day!

Marsha Hunt

Happy 106th Birthday, Claire Trevor!

The great Claire Trevor was born Claire Wemlinger 106 years ago today in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. She grew up in Larchmont, New York, and after graduating high school, spent six months studying at NYC’s American Academy of Dramatic Art before beginning a theatrical career, first in stock theatre and later on Broadway.

Claire Trevor

In the early 1930s, Trevor appeared in short films for the NYC-based Vitaphone studios before moving into feature films in 1933. Over the next six years, she kept very busy, averaging six pictures per annum. In 1937, she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Dead End.

Trevor appeared in a number of Westerns over the years, frequently costarring opposite John Wayne. In one of those oaters, 1954’s The High and The Mighty, she received the third of her three Best Supporting Actress nominations.

But it was in the genre of film noir that Trevor made her most indelible mark. In films such as Murder, My Sweet (1944), in which she costarred with Dick Powell; Born to Kill (1947), in which she appeared opposite Lawrence Tierney Raw Deal (1948), with Dennis O’Keefe, she played hard-boiled dames with hearts of gold, and her work in these dark and gritty pictures made her one of the queens of that genre. It was in Key Largo (1948), in which she costarred with Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart that she earned her Best Supporting Actress Oscar, playing Gaye Dawn, gangster’s moll and former nightclub singer,

Trevor also enjoyed success in radio and television in a career that spanned six decades, winning an Emmy for her work in a 1957 small-production of Dodsworth. Late in life, Trevor was generous in her support of the arts, and the University of California-Irvine named its School of Performing and Visual Arts after her. Her Oscar and Emmy statuettes are on display in the Arts Plaza there.

Claire Trevor died in 2000 in Newport Beach, California, at the age of 90.

Happy birthday, Ms. Trevor, wherever you may be.

Farewell, My Lovely: A Classic Reissued

Farewell, My Lovely posterFarewell, My Lovely (1975) is a neo-noir adaptation of Raymond Chandler‘s novel of the same name. Robert Mitchum, though a bit long in the tooth for the role, plays Philip Marlowe to a T, and the picture perfectly captures the mood of the era–and the cinematic genre–it portrays.

We were working as an usher at the North Park 4 Cinema when this movie came out, and watched it with delight in dribs and drabs—a scene here, a scene there, whenever we could elude the disapproving gaze of our manager. It was our introduction to Chandler’s work, and we could hardly have asked for a better one (except, y’know, Chandler’s work).

Part of what makes the picture work is the haunting “Marlowe’s Theme” that plays over the opening credits and reappears at various times throughout the picture. We’d like to live in the world that this music evokes.

The picture also features such stellar supporting players as Charlotte Rampling (channeling Lauren Bacall), Jack O’Halloran (as Moose Malloy), Harry Dean Stanton, Sylvia Miles (she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as an over-the-hill chorus girl), John Ireland, Sylvester Stallone (in a don’t-blink cameo as a hood) and even acclaimed noir author Jim Thompson in a small role.

Farewell, My Lovely has been unavailable on DVD in the U.S. for a good many years, but we were pleased to learn recently that Shout! Factory is releasing it again in mid-November (you can preorder it now). One might wish this beautiful picture were going to be made available in Blu-ray format (we do wish that very thing, as a matter of fact), but even a DVD reissue is cause for celebration.

There is an excellent 1944 adaptation of Chandler’s second novel—renamed Murder, My Sweet, it stars Dick Powell as Marlowe, along with noir icon Claire Trevor, Mike Mazurki, Otto Kruger, Anne Shirley, and Esther Howard—that is newly available on Blu-Ray, and it’s worth your time, too. In fact, it’s widely considered a classic. Frankly, you can’t go wrong with either of these movies; we recommend owning both.