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.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

'50s /'60s guys: Jeff and Jeff

Another comparison of two actors (see previous on Oliver Reed & David Hemmings, below). I was looking at an old Jeff Chandler picture the other day, and realised how similar his career path was to that other Fifties guy Jeffrey Hunter - plus both died aged 42 and both from complications after surgery (Chandler in 1961, Hunter in 1969). Hunter had the better career, appearing in more prestige films (including 3 by John Ford) while Chandler was mainly consigned to westerns, actioners, programmers, sudsers where he was an ideal co-star for ladies of a certain age: Loretta Young, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, June Allyson, Esther Williams, Susan Hayward ...

Like Susan (and Stanwyck and Streisand) Chandler (1918-1961) - real name Ira Grossel - was from Brooklyn in New York and he also attended Erasmus High School. His odd good lucks and that premature grey hair soon got him into movies, after his war service in WWII, where he became a Universal-International resident hunk (along with Hudson, Curtis, George Nader): westerns like BROKEN ARROW, THE GREAT SIOUX UPRISING, and TAZA SON OF COCHISE, and 'easterns' like BIRD OF PARADISE, YANKEE PASHA, FLAME OR ARABY, SIGN OF THE PAGAN. There were war films like AWAY ALL BOATS and TEN SECONDS TO HELL
He was ideal as the beach hunk with designs on Joan Crawford in FEMALE ON THE BEACH - one of our favourite Trash classics here - and with Esther in RAW WIND IN EDEN in 1957 - Esther rather trashed his reputation in her tell-all memoir, apparantly they had been dating but she discovered he was a cross-dresser with a penchant for polka dot dresses! - it was later suggested this was a fabrication to spice up her book, but who knows now .... He squired Lana in THE LADY TAKES A FLYER and was good with June Allyson, Mary Astor and Sandra Dee in the enjoyable tosh that is STRANGER IN MY ARMS, 1959 (see Jeff label). He also starred in RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE - a real Trash Classic - in 1961, and did that silly western THUNDER IN THE SUN as a favour for old pal Susan Hayward. His last film was San Fuller's tough war movie  MERRILL'S MARAUDERS in 1961. He died from blood poisoning after a slipped disk operation.

Jeffrey Hunter is best remembered today for his roles as half-breed Martin Pawley in John Ford's classic western The Searchers (1956), as Jesus Christ in Nicholas Ray's King of Kings (1961) and as Christopher Pike, the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, in the original Star Trek pilot.

Jeffrey Hunter (1926-1969): I have already featured his career here as a 'Person We Like' - see Hunter label. He must have been one of the best looking actors ever, certainly of his time - but he seems to have had a troubled life with several unhappy marriages. He worked a lot at 20th Century Fox where he was teamed several times with Robert Wagner, and in films like NO DOWN PAYMENT (which also featured his first wife Barbara Rush), DREAMBOAT, as Little Dog in WHITE FEATHER (1955), Nick Ray's THE JAMES BROTHERS, in the all-star THE LONGEST DAY, he is fun in PRINCESS OF THE NILE in 1954, but his memorial remains John Ford's endlessly fascinating classic THE SEARCHERS in 1956 - his Martin Pawley is always on show somewhere, along with John Wayne, Vera Miles and Natalie Wood. 
We also like his war films: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, SAILOR TO THE KING, HELL TO ETERNITY, IN LOVE AND WAR. The early 60s saw a dip in his career - going to Europe for items like GOLD OF THE CAESARS, which is a better than usual peplum, He also had a TV series TEMPLE HOUSTON which I do not know, and was famously Jesus (with those piercing blue eyes) in KING OF KINGS for Nick Ray in 1961 .... He also had the lead in a new series STAR TREK in 1965 but did not continue after the first pilot episode. 
In 1969 Hunter suffered a stroke (after an accident on set in Europe), took a bad fall and underwent emergency surgery, but died from complications of both the fall and the surgery.
Both Jeffs are always watchable - I have just had to order MAN TRAP, a 1961 thriller with Hunter and the marvellous Stella Stevens, which I have not seen. Lots more at Hunter label ... 

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