Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
People We Like: Jeffrey Hunter
Jeffrey Hunter (1926-1969) was one of the more attractive players of the 50s and 60s, equally at home out west (as both a cowboy or indian brave) or as a marine (those war films like HELL TO ETERNITY, IN LOVE AND WAR, NO MAN IS AN ISLAND and SOLIDER TO THE KING) or back in a business suit, as in DREAMBOAT and 1957’s NO DOWN PAYMENT with that roster of 20th Century Fox players: Patricia Owens as his wife, Joanne Woodward, Barbara Rush (his ex-wife), Tony Randall, Sheree North etc. The’50s was really his era, he was under contract to Fox until 1959 and his many movies with them included RED SKIES OF MONTANA, LURE OF THE WILDERNESS, A KISS BEFORE DYING, THE JAMES BROTHERS for Nick Ray. His signature role though remains the John Ford Warner Bros hit in 1956 THE SEARCHERS where his Martin Pawley holds his own standing up to John Wayne at his most iconic. He, Natalie Wood and Vera Miles are the 50s in aspic here. A delirious treat recently was the 1954 PRINCESS OF THE NILE with Jeff topless and in a turban in this piece of exotica with Debra Paget.
Jeff was teamed several times with that other Fox contract player Robert Wagner and there are lots of photos of them on the sets of their various movies but Hunter is hardly mentioned in Wagner’s recent memoirs – perhaps they were more rivals than friends? John Ford had a habit of testing Wagner for several roles but never gave him one (which still rankles, as per RJ's book), but he, Ford, used Hunter 3 times – THE LAST HURRAH and SERGEANT RUTLEDGE in 1960 as well as THE SEARCHERS. Jeff's Little Dog in the 1955 WHITE FEATHER, again with Wagner, is another of his better roles. Like most Fox players they were both in THE LONGEST DAY.
KING OF KINGS in 1962 for Nick Ray should have been a landmark role for him but somehow his career never regained momentum after that, there were European movies like GOLD FOR THE CAESARS but perhaps it was the 60s and a new raft of young actors were stepping out. Jeff went into STAR TREK but did not stay in it – and he died in 1969, aged 43, after complications following an operation after a fall. It’s an axiom of mine that most good-looking actors get ten years success if they are lucky and are luckier if they can then continue in lesser roles and become character actors as they get older – Michael York for instance is a case in point. Jeffrey Hunter – like Stephen Boyd or Laurence Harvey or Stanley Baker – died too young though the career was already winding down. It’s a sad end to a solid career; he comes across as a nice guy and those startling blue eyes and chiselled looks ensure Jeff will long be remembered, and THE SEARCHERS will always be playing somewhere.