Marsha Hunt, originally from New York, began her film acting career in 1935 at the age of 17 under contract to Paramount Studios, where she was given only leading roles. She then moved to MGM, where for seven years her romantic lead assignments only slightly outnumbered a wide variety of roles. These earned her the proud title of “Hollywood’s Youngest Character Actress.” She has appeared in 62 motion pictures and proved her versatility in such films as Pride and Prejudice (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson; Born to the West (1937) with John Wayne; The Happy Time (1952) with Charles Boyer and Louis Jordan; Blue Denim (1959) with McDonald Carey; The Valley of Decision (1945) with Greer Garson and Gregory Peck; A Letter for Evie (1946) with Hume Cronyn; The Human Comedy (1943) with Mickey Rooney and Frank Morgan; Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President (1939) with Walter Brennan; Unholy Partners (1941) with Edward G. Robinson and Edward Arnold; Cry ‘Havoc’ (1943); Carnegie Hall (1947); Blossoms in the Dust (1941) with Greer Garson; Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) with Susan Hayward; Pilot #5 (1943) with Gene Kelly and Franchot Tone; NONE SHALL ESCAPE (1944); The Affairs of Martha (1942); Thousands Cheer (1943); Raw Deal (1948) with Raymond Burr; and Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun (1971). The Grand Inquisitor, directed by Eddie Muller in 2008, was her most recent film.
Marsha made her Broadway stage debut in 1948 co-starring in Joy to the World with Alfred Drake, directed by Jules Dassin; followed by The Devil’s Disciple (Life Magazine cover March 6, 1950), with Maurice Evans; Borned in Texas with Anthony Quinn; Legend of Sarah; The Tunnel of Love with Johnny Carson and The Paisley Convertible with Bill Bixby. Other stage lead roles have included The Cocktail Party as well as The Lady’s Not for Burning with Vincent Price, Affairs of State, Anniversary Waltz, Marriage-Go-Round, Any Wednesday, Tchin-Tchin, Good-Bye Again, The Little Hut, The Complaisant Lover, The Man With a Load of Mischief, All the Way Home, Roomful of Roses, The Pleasure of His Company, Major Barbara, Heartbreak House, Laura, Rooms, Private Lives, Design for Living, The Corn is Green and On Golden Pond, as well as the singing leads in the musicals State Fair, Meet Me in St. Louis and The King and I.
Marsha debuted on television as Viola in Twelfth Night, the first Shakespeare play to be televised from coast to coast. It was performed live. Other live broadcasts include “Studio One,” “Climax, Matinee Theatre,” “Philco Playhouse,” “Ford Theatre,” “Danger” and “Your Show of Shows.” Filmed television credits include “The Outer Limits,” “The Breaking Point,” “Channing,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Defenders,” “Ben Casey,” “Profiles in Courage,” “Accidental Family,” “Run for Your Life,” “The Outsider,” “The Twilight Zone,” “My Three Sons,” “Ironside,” “Marcus Welby M.D.,” “The Young Lawyers,” “Name of the Game,” “Police Story,” “Medical Story,” “Harry-O,” “Murder She Wrote” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” In addition to television she performed in countless radio dramas during its golden era.
Marsha was married to screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr. for 40 years until his death in 1986. For many decades Marsha served on boards dedicated to the United Nations Specialized Agencies, hunger, fair housing, community relations, youth, cerebral palsy, family planning, mental health and interfaith harmony. She hosted an early telethon for cerebral palsy, which set a record for continuous hours on the air. She went on to host seven more throughout the United States thus encouraging other celebrities to do the same. Advocating the work of the United Nations Specialized Agencies, she wrote and produced “A Call from the Stars” a short documentary that aired on television with 14 stars telling the plight of world refugees.
As Honorary Mayor of Sherman Oaks, CA for 18 years, Marsha concentrated on the severe social/economic problem of the Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley homeless population. In 1983, she founded the Valley Mayors’ Fund for the Homeless, the first organization of its kind, which helped to raise funds for three facilities and other related services. Her concept of a new Thanksgiving observance called “Thankful Giving” was passed by both houses of Congress in 1978, and President Jimmy Carter advocated it in his proclamation.
Composing both music and lyrics, she has written over 50 songs. One of them is distributed by UNICEF worldwide for schoolchildren sing in their native languages. In recent years, she produced an album, Songs from the Heart. Her song “Here’s to All Who Love” was recently performed in concert by the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus and she has written a book, The Way We Wore, with hundreds of photographs of her solo and with co-stars in the fashion of the Golden Age films. She has received innumerable honors for her career in film, radio, stage, television and her tireless dedication to causes that concern humanity.
In 2010, she received the New York Women in Film and Television Muse Award. She was the only actor interviewed on camera in Turner Classic Movie’s 2010 miniseries “Moguls and Movie Stars.” In 2012, Turner Classic Movie Festival highlighted her and screened her noir vanguard film Raw Deal. Further recognition came in 2015 when she became the first recipient of the annual Hunt for Humanity Award named for her, along with Ojai Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Burbank Film Festival’s Awareness Award. A critically acclaimed documentary of her life, Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity directed by Roger C. Memos, received awards for Best Feature Length Documentary in international film festivals.
On October 17, 2017, Marsha Hunt triumphantly reached 100 years of age. She was honored on her birthday by Turner Classic Movies with a broadcast marathon of her many memorable films. The Los Angeles City Council recognized her centennial event with a special ceremony and presented a scene featuring her from the prophetic WWII drama NONE SHALL ESCAPE, which will be screened in a newly remastered version at the 2018 Turner Classic Movie Festival.