Marsha Hunt, Blacklisted Hollywood Actress, Dies at 104

A star of MGM and Paramount starting in the 1930s, she saw her career derailed after questioning Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee

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Marsha Hunt, a star of MGM and Paramount beginning in the 1930s who was blacklisted in Hollywood in the ’50s during Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt, died Wednesday at age 104.

Roger Memos, who directed a documentary about Hunt’s life, confirmed the news.

A former model, Hunt was a standout in such films as John Wayne’s 1937 Western “Born to the West”; 1939’s “The Glamour Girls,” opposite Lana Turner; 1940’s “Pride and Prejudice” and 1948’s beloved noir “Raw Deal.” In 1945, she joined the board of the Screen Actors Guild.

But her career unraveled after she and her second husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., joined a Hollywood group that questioned McCarthy’s efforts to root out Communists in American society, including in Hollywood. In 1950, the right-wing publication Red Channels named her as a potential Communist and she was asked to denounce her activities if she wanted to be hired for future roles — which she refused to do.

Blacklisted by the major studios, Hunt found occasional roles in television, making one-episode appearances in shows like “Gunsmoke,” “The Twilight Zone,” “My Three Sons” — and much later, “Murder, She Wrote” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” By 1971, she did manage to get cast in a notable big-screen role, playing the mother of Timothy Bottoms’ quadruple amputee in 1971’s “Johnny Got His Gun” — which was scripted by another Hollywood blacklister, Dalton Trumbo.

She also devoted herself to progressive causes. After a 1955 overseas trip, she became a public advocate for international welfare through the United Nations Association. Over the years, she also became an activist on issues like homelessness, global pollution and worldwide poverty.

For the record: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Sen. Joseph McCarthy as Eugene McCarthy. TheWrap regrets the error.