The feedback to the first edition of Stargayzing’s 30 Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era Who Are Still Alive feature was so positive—as of this writing it is the blog’s most highly read piece)—that I have prepared a second edition which will address some of the omissions and include some your suggestions of who should have been included. Once again, my work has been slowed by the passing of some who I was hurriedly writing about (Eli Wallach, Lizabeth Scott, Louis Jourdan). So without wasting another moment, here is the follow-up list of Hollywood’s oldest living stars of the Golden Age. Please be sure to let me know who I forgot, as I’m already at work on volume three.
To read these pieces in order—and so you know who was already saluted before the deluge of amazing suggestions for volume three comes in, here is Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era Who Are Still Alive, Volume 1.
1. Dean Stockwell (born March 5, 1936 – age 80)
“I started at a very early age in this business and I’m sure most of you have read stories about people who have started as children and ended up in very difficult lives and bad consequences. It’s not the easiest life in the world, but then no life is easy.”
Dean Stockwell’s career spans over 65 years. He began as a child in Hollywood under contract to MGM, with memorable roles next to some of the biggest stars of all-time in films like Anchors Aweigh (1945) with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, as the son of Gregory Peck in Gentleman’s Agreement and the son of Myrna Loy and William Powell in Song of the Thin Man (both 1947). Other important roles of this period, include co-starring with Herbert Marshall and Margaret O’Brian in The Secret Garden (1949) and working opposite Errol Flynn in Kim (1950).
Unlike many of his child actor peers, Stockwell transitioned to adult roles with seeming ease: he starred in both the Broadway adaptation of the Leopold and Loeb story Compulsion, as well as its 1959 film version with Orson Welles (for which Stockwell won the Cannes Film Festival award at Best Actor); starred in Jack Cardiff’s acclaimed Sons and Lovers (1960); and the 1962 version of O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night with Katharine Hepburn, for which he won the Best Actor award at Cannes once again.
After dropping out of the business in the 1960s and 1970s, first to be a hippie, then a real estate agent, Stockwell successfully rebooted his career. Later work included roles in Wim Wenders Paris, Texas (1984), David Lynch’s Dune (1984), William Friedken’s To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), and again with Lynch in Blue Velvet (1986). He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1988 for Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob. He is also well-known for his extensive TV work on shows like Quantum Leap (1989-1993) and Battlestar Gallactica among many, many more credits.
Fun facts: Stockwell is also an artist. He designed the cover for friend Neil Young’s album American Stars ‘n Bars (1977).
Fun fact 2: Stockwell’s father was an actor and singer whose biggest credit was voicing the prince in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2. Shirley Knight (born July 5, 1936 – age 79)
“Men are allowed to get older and women are not.”
Actors Studio alumna Shirley Knight has had notable success on stage, in film and on TV over the course of a career that began in the late-1950s. Knight is a three-time Emmy winner, a Tony winner, and two-time Oscar nominee for best supporting actress (in 1960 for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and in 1962 for Sweet Bird of Youth). Other notable film performances include The Group (1966), The Dutchman (1966), Petulia (1968), The Rain People (1969), As Good as It Gets (1997), and Elevator (2011).
Knight has starred on Broadway since the 1960s, including memorable turns in Three Sisters (1964), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1966) and Kennedy’s Children (1975, Tony Award). On TV, Knight has guest starred on everything from Thirtysomething (Emmy Award) to Law & Order to Hot in Cleveland. She won a second Emmy for a guest appearance on NYPD Blue in 1995. She is probably best known in recent years for a recurring role on Desperate Housewives as Bree Hodge’s annoying former mother-in-law, Phyllis Van de Kamp.
3. Julie Andrews (born October 1, 1935 – age 81)
On being a gay icon: “I don’t know. I’m sort of aware that I am. But I’m that odd mixture of, on the one hand, being a gay icon and, on the other hand, having grandmas and parents being grateful I’m around to be a babysitter for their kids. And I’ve never been able to figure out what makes a gay icon, because there are many different kinds. I don’t think I have the image that, say, Judy Garland has, or Bette Davis.”
There are few living legends who had the impact and enduring popularity of Dame Julie Andrews, who has built a sturdy career out of riffing on her persona as the nicest person you might ever meet—Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965)—and then playing against type—S.O.B (1981), Victor/Victoria (1983). Other notable screen successes throughout the decades include Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966), The Americanization of Emily (1964), 10 (1979), The Princess Diaries (2001), Shrek (2004-2010), and Despicable Me (2010).
Whether it is on screen, on stage, on record or as an author, there are few show business brands as clearly delineated and well-maintained as that of Julie Andrews. The impact of a lifetime of achievement was felt when Andrews appeared unexpectedly at the 2015 Oscars after Lady Gaga’s surprisingly adequate tribute to Andrews and The Sound of Music. In those moments of mutual admiration between the two performers and their worldwide audience, the viewer felt the full measure of love for and good will toward Miss Andrews. In some indescribable way, the torch was passed and respect was paid.
4. Piper Laurie (born January 22, 1932 – age 84)
“If I had stayed in Hollywood, I would have killed myself. Or someone would have done it for me.”
Though Piper Laurie is best known for her Oscar-nominated role as the mother of Sissy Spacek’s Carrie in Brian DePalma’s 1976 film, the Detroit native has enjoyed a long career. Born Rosetta Jacobs, Laurie name was changed after being signed to Universal Pictures in 1949. She made her film debut in Louisa (1950) with Ronald Reagan (with whom she claimed to have lost her virginity in her 2011 autobiography Learning to Live Out Loud). Other notable film roles over the years have included Oscar-nominated turns in The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman and Children of a Lesser God (1986).
TV work over the years in everything from Days of Wine and Roses on Playhouse 90 (1958) to David Lynch’s cult favorite Twin Peaks (1991). Other memorable guest appearances include ER (as George Clooney’s mother), Frasier, Matlock, State of Grace, Will & Grace, Cold Case, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Laurie has also enjoyed of a long career on the stage. Highlights of her Broadway career include a 1965 revival of The Glass Menagerie with Maureen Stapleton and the 2002 Lincoln Center revival of Mornings at Seven.
5. Rita Moreno (born December 11, 1931 – age 84)
“I had battled racism and sexism all my life. Now I had to battle ageism.”
Though best known for her star turn as Anita in Robert Wise’s West Side Story (for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), Rita Moreno’s career is still going strong in its seventh decade. She is one of the few female members of the EGOT club (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony; a list that get’s shorter still when you stop to consider that Barbra Streisand did not win a competitive Tony award as much have won bestowed as a gift in a made up category.) Her Tony was for Best Featured Actress for The Ritz (1975); she won Emmy Awards for a guest appearances on The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files; and, finally, a Grammy for her contribution to The Electric Company album. Moreno was the first Hispanic woman to win each of these awards.
Other major roles for the still-stunning Moreno include Tuptim in The King and I (1956), Carnal Knowledge (1971), and The Ritz (1976). At 82, she is still active: she published her autobiography Rita Moreno: A Memoir in 2013. That year she also joined the cast of Fran Drescher’s Happily Divorced playing Fran’s mother.
Fun fact: according to her book, she had an eight year affair with Marlon Brando and was also involved with Elvis Presley, who she related to more as a brother than a stud.
6. Mamie Van Doren (born February 6, 1931 – age 84)
“I came to Hollywood determined to follow in Jean Harlow’s footsteps, but I was determined not to die young. My hope was to endure. And endure I have.”
And has she ever! To look at the 84-year-old Mamie Van Doren today is to behold a sleight of hand—a tramp l’oil, if you will. When I look at Mamie its as if there is vaseline on the lenses of my eyes. How the hell does she do it? Despite never having made a great film, she has endured as a cult favorite and good-natured celebrity.
Van Doren hails from South Dakota. In 1949, at age 18, she was discovered by Howard Hughes and placed under contract to RKO. “Notable” films include Teacher’s Pet (1958), Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968), The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966) and Girl’s Town (1959).
7. Vera Miles (born August 23, 1930 – age 85)
“I couldn’t kill a fly.”
Miles is perhaps best known for playing Lila Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Other major films roles in the long career of Miss Miles, include John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man (1956), and John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance (1962). Beginning in the 1960s, Vera has been featured on TV programs from Columbo to My Three Sons. She currently resides in California and, apparently, doesn’t speak about her acting career. She has no website.
Fun Fact: Placed third in the Miss America contest in 1948.
Fun Fact two: Was portrayed by Jessica Biel in Hitchcock (2012).
8. Hugh O’Brian (born April 19, 1925 – age 91)
“I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose: To share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.”
Here are excerpts from Gary Brumburgh’s (firstname.lastname@example.org) excellent IMDB bio:
O’Brian was born Hugh Charles Krampe in Rochester, New York, to Ohio-born parents Edith Lillian (Marks) and Hugh John Krampe, a United States Marine Corps officer. Hugh’s gentlemanly ruggedness, similar to a James Garner or a Gene Barry, was ideal for pictures, and his lean physique and exceptionally photographic mug had the modest, brown-eyed, curly-haired looker plastered all over the movie magazines. He rebelled against the image for the most part and, as a result, his years with Universal were not as fruitful as they could have been. For the duration, he was pretty much confined as a secondary player to standard action pictures such as Red Ball Express (1952), Son of Ali Baba (1952) and Seminole (1953). It was Rock Hudson who earned all of the Universal glamour guy roles and the out-and-out stardom that could easily have been Hugh’s. In 1954, he left Universal to freelance but did not fare any better until offered the starring role in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955) on TV, a year later. It became a mainstay hit and Hugh an “overnight” star. During his six-year run on the western classic, he managed to show off his singing talents on variety shows and appeared on Broadway. The handsome bachelor remained a durable talent throughout the 60s and 70s with plentiful work on the summer stock stage and on TV, including the series Search (1972), but never got the one role to earn the critical attention he merited.
A sports enthusiast, his hobbies have included sailing, tennis, swimming and long-distance bicycling and his many philanthropic efforts have not gone unrecognized. His proudest achievement is the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), which he founded in 1958 after spending considerable time with Dr. Albert Schweitzer and his clinic in Africa. Struck by the impassioned work being done by Schweitzer, O’Brian set up his own program to help develop young people into future leaders. O’Brian has since been awarded honorary degrees by several prestigious institutions of higher learning. The perennial bachelor finally “settled down” and tied the knot at age 81 with long-time companion Virginia Barber who is close to three decades his junior. They live in his Benedict Canyon home.
– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburghemail@example.com
Fun Fact: Was the last person killed on screen by John Wayne, in The Shootist (1976).
9. Betty White (born January 17, 1922 – age 94)
On turning 90: “I can credit my folks for my genes. That said, I can’t get over that at this age I don’t feel this age. I’m not trying to be any younger. I’m not lying about my age. If I were lying about my age, I would say I was 89. I’m just at one of those good times in one’s life. I’m at one of the high spots. I’m healthy enough to enjoy it. I’m surrounded by friends I adore. Isn’t that kind of the best way to sign off?”
What a career Betty White has enjoyed, replete with a third act that is, perhaps, second-to-none in the annals of show business. Depending on your age, White is best known for playing Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973 – 1977), or playing Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls (1985-1992).
Her career began in radio in the late-1930s and by 1949 she was co-hosting Al Jarvis’ Make-Believe Ballroom, also known as Hollywood on Television. This means that White’s career extends back to the very nascence of the medium. (I learned that in 1939 she sang on an experimental TV program in Los Angeles, which means her on-camera career actually pre-dates the medium!)
I was surprised to learn that White was a pioneer in other ways: she was one of the first women to produce a TV program. According to Wiki:
“In 1952, the same year she began hosting Hollywood on Television, White co-founded Bandy Productions with writer George Tibbles and Don Fedderson, a producer. The trio worked to create new shows using existing characters from sketches shown on Hollywood on Television. White, Fedderson, and Tibbles created the television comedy Life with Elizabeth, based on a Hollywood on Television sketch. White portrayed the title character on the sitcom from 1952 to 1955, which effectively boosted her career. Life With Elizabeth was nationally syndicated by the mid-1950s, allowing White to become one of the few women in television with full creative control in front of and behind the camera at the time.”
Perhaps most astonishing of all, was Betty White’s comeback in her late 80s, which culminated by her becoming the oldest person to ever host SNL, a performance that won her a sixth Emmy. As of this writing, Betty White continues to inspire young and old alike with her talent and astounding longevity.
More Betty White:
AARP and the Temple of Doom: or, Beware of the Hearse, Even if Betty White is the Driver!
Eating With the Stars: In Honor of Her 90th Birthday, Why Not Try Betty White’s Chicken Wings?
10. Carl Reiner (born March 20, 1922 – age 94)
“I’m a charming coward; I fight with words.”
Carl Reiner has enjoyed a very long, profilic, and diverse career. The New York native began on Broadway but transitioned quickly to television, then in its infancy, where he was cast in Sid Caesar’s seminal Your Show of Shows, for which he also toiled as a writer, along with future comedy legends Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. Subsequently Reiner and Brooks became a comedy team on The Steve Allen Show (1960), before creating, writing, directing and acting in the groundbreaking sitcomThe Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961, which made stars out of its entire cast (Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie).
Other career highlights include directing Where’s Poppa? (1970), Oh God! (1977), The Jerk (1979) and creating and starring in the 2000-Year-Old Man sketch with Mel Brooks, which began on the Steve Allen show and expanded into a highly successful series of comedy albums in the 1970s.
Fun fact: Reiner’s wife Estelle uttered the immortal line from When Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what she’s having!”
Fun fact two: Reiner is one of the oldest celebrities with a very active twitter account. (If anyone knows of an older celebrity who tweets, please advise me. Yes, of course I know that Betty White tweets, but it is sporadic and feels dictated).
Fun fact three: Reiner was integral to the early career of Steve Martin, directing and co-writing The Jerk (1979), Dead Man Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man With Two Brains (1983), and All of Me (1984).
Fun fact four: father of actor/director Rob Reiner.
11. Dickie Moore (September 12, 1925, age 89)
Dickie Moore died September 7, 2015 (aged 89), R.I.P.
“[on working with Cecil B. DeMille in The Squaw Man (1931)]: He was a complete and total egotist who didn’t give a damn about anyone but himself. He hit me. I was a five-year-old kid and he hit me!”
Child star Dickie Moore is, perhaps, the last person alive who ever kissed Marlene Dietrich. Of course I’m referring to his incredibly effective performance in Josef von Sternberg’s 1932 masterpiece Blonde Venus wherein his relationship with Dietrich is the mechanism that makes the film so powerful and enduring.
Dickie Moore is also one of the last surviving actors of the silent era. His first film was Don Juan (1926). Other career highlights include starring as Oliver in the 1933 adaptation of Oliver Twist, starring in Hal Roach’s Our Gang series (1932-1933), and giving Shirley Temple her second on-screen kiss in Miss Annie Rooney (1942). Though he continued to get cast in notable films—The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Sergeant York (1941), Heaven Can Wait (1943), Out of the Past (1947)—the roles were getting smaller.
By the 1950s, Moore transitioned from acting into public relations and enjoyed a second career. In 1984 he published a book about being a child star, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, that included interviews with other former child actors. Included in the book was actress Jane Powell, whom he subsequently married in 1988.
12. Carol Channing (born January 31, 1921 – age 95)
“Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward.”
I’ve written about Carol Channing so often in Stargayzing that it fairly stunned me when a reader pointed out that she had been omitted from the first edition of this piece. As Carol herself would say, “Well dear, conshider the shource!”
Carol Channing is, of course, the most enduring exemplar of the 20th-century musical theater. She was born in Seattle and educated at Bennington College in Vermont. After graduation, Channing began her career at 19 in Marc Blitzstein’s 1941 No For an Answer at what is now New York’s City Center. Her first Broadway credit was understudying Eve Arden in Let’s Face It! A few years later, Channing was featured in Lend Me an Ear, which brought her to the attention of Anita Loos who had her cast as Lorelei Lee in Gentleman Prefer Blondes. That show made her a Broadway star and also gave her a signature song, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Of course Carol became an even bigger star in 1964 when she immortalized the role of D0lly Levi in Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! Carol reprised the role for decades; hell, even I saw her in the 1990s incarnation of the show which, although the actress was nearing 80, still conveyed a reasonable facsimile of what made Channing so compelling (especially if you squinted).
Over the years, Carol has been a steadfast presence on TV, record, and in film. Channing made her film debut in the Robert Cummings, Lizabeth Scott film Paid in Full (1950) directed by William Dieterle (also featuring Eve Arden). Other notable film appearances, include the 1956 Ginger Rogers vehicle The First Traveling Saleslady, George Roy Hill’s Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Otto Preminger’s Skidoo (1968), and the superb Channing documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life (which was reviewed in Stargayzing by Nancy Balbirer).
Here is a Channing performing “Soul Sista” with Teresa Graves on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, circa 1970. In addition to being a hoot, the number is somewhat more provocative since asserting in her 2002 autobiography Just Lucky I Guess (2002), that her father was half African American. Speaking of unanswered Channing urban myths, if anyone out there personally knows Carol, can we please try to get confirmation or a firm denial of the famous Carol Channing Corn Story?
Fun fact: A liberal Democrat, Carol was included in Richard Nixon’s infamous “enemies list,” a distinction she once referred to as “the highest honor in her career.”
More Carol Channing:
Extreme Carol Channing: “Jam Tomorrow, Jam Yesterday”
Nancy Balbirer on Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
On Carol Channing, Corn, and Other (Urban) Legends: Including Her Recipe For German Pot Roast in Eating With the Stars
A Gay Man’s Guide to the 11 Best Songs to Listen to While Dusting: The 1970s Edition
13. Max von Sydow (born April 10, 1929 – age 87)
“In a silent film, you speak but the audience does not hear you.”
The great Swedish actor has been a major presence in international cinema since the early-1950s. Perhaps best known for his iconic films with Ingmar Bergman (including The Seventh Seal, 1957, and Through the Glass Darkly, 1961), von Sydow is also known for these memorable roles: The Exorcist (1973); Joubert the assassin in Three Days of the Condor (1975); Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980); the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983); Liet-Kynes in Dune (1984); Frederick in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986); Lassefar in Pelle the Conqueror (1987), for which he received his first Academy Award nomination; Dr. Peter Ingham in Awakenings (1990); Lamar Burgess in Minority Report (2002) and The Renter in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2012), which earned him his second Academy Award nomination.
Max von Sydow will also be appearing in the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens, ensuring that his work will be well-known to another generation of film lovers.
14. Nanette Fabray (born October 27, 1920 – age 95)
“It was a revelation to me. All these years I had thought I was stupid, but in reality I just had a hearing problem.”
Perky Nanette Fabray is a dancer, actress, and singer. After beginning in vaudeville, she became a musical theater star on Broadway in the 1940s and 1950s, winning the Tony for the Kurt Weill/Alan Jay Lerner musical Love Life in 1949. Other notable musicals of that period include By Jupiter (1942), My Dear Public (1943), Jackpot (1944), Bloomer Girl (1946), High Button Shoes (1947), Arms and the Girl (1950), and Make a Wish (1951). In the 1950s, in addition to making her most famous screen appearance in Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon (1953) with Fred Astaire and Jack Buchanan, she was a regular on Sid Caesar’s Caesar’s Hour, for which she won three Emmy Awards.
Later roles included a memorable turn as Bonnie Franklin’s mother Katharine Romano on One Day at a Time, as well as many guest shots on everything from Love, American Style to Murder, She Wrote. She lives in Pacific Palisades, California
Fun trivia: Mary Tyler Moore credits Fabray as the inspiration for Mary Richards’ distinctive crying style on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Also, she turned down the chance to be the voice of Wilma Flintstone on The Flintstones so she could star in Irving Berlin’s final musical Mr. President, which flopped.
15. Marge Champion (born September 2, 1919 – age 96)
“In those days —it seems impossible now— nice girls didn’t go to bed with people before they were married. I had been brought up by my British father. You just didn’t do that. You did not sleep with them or live with them.”
Best known as one half of the famous dancing team with husband Gower Champion, The Champions were featured in a series of MGM musicals, including their most famous film, Showboat (1951) and Everything I Have is Yours (1952). In 1957 they starred in the short-lived Marge and Gower Champion Show. Though she divorced Champion in 1973, it was her second marriage. Her first, to Disney animator Art Babbit (who created Goofy) also ended in divorce. In 1977, she married director Boris Segal (father of Sons of Anarchy’s Katey Segal) and remained married to him until his death in 1981 on the set of the miniseries WWII.
In later years, she appeared in the films The Party (1966), The Swimmer (1968) and was the dance supervisor on the period film The Day of the Locusts (1975). She also appeared in the TV series Fame in 1982.
According to IMDB, here is a fun Marge Champion trivia fact: “She was filmed for the reference of Disney animators (her then-husband Art Babbitt was an animator, and supervised much of the reference filming) as a model for the heroine in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio (1940), and Hyacinth Hippo in the “Dance of the Hours” segment of Fantasia (1940) (along with Ruby Dandridge), which she also helped choreograph, in an elaborate parody of a Balanchine ballet danced by Vera Zorina in The Goldwyn Follies (1938). Marge even recalls doing some modeling for Mr. Stork in Dumbo (1941).”
16. Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) (born October 29, 1918 – age 97)
“When I was 16 or 18, I had a beautiful portrait made. I went in to pick it up, and the clerk leaned over and said, ‘How does it feel to be a has-been at 16?’ It was a very, very heavy trip to have to face time and time again.”
Diana Serra Cary is better known as “Baby Peggy,” one of the last surviving actors of the silent era and, along with Jackie Coogan, and Baby Marie, one its three major child stars. Her father had done some stunt work for movie cowboy Tom Mix. Her parents took her at age 19 months to Century Studios on Sunset Boulevard where director Fred Fishback was impressed with the toddlers ability to take direction. The first short film costarred the child with Brownie the Wonder Dog. In the early 1920s, Baby Peggy made over 150 shorts for Century, many of which involved her spoofing adult stars of the day, like Pola Negri and Rudolph Valentino.
She moved to Universal in 1923 where she was a priority for the studio and began making full-length features. The child became a superstar, supposedly earning 1.5 million dollars a year at Universal (over 20 million dollars adjusted for inflation) and, by the time she was five, had a lucrative line of endorsement deals. After her father had a disagreement with producer Sol Lesser in 1925, Peggy’s contract was cancelled and she was prevented from working in films. She transitioned to a successful vaudeville career which also ended by around 1930.
Sadly, the child’s parents spent all of her money by the time she was an adolescent. The actress attempted a comeback in the 1930s which did not work, but eventually did gain traction later in life as the author of Hollywood Posse (1975), her autobiography Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy? (1996), and several others. She is also a noted advocate for the rights of underage actors and has appeared in numerous documentaries and films about her experiences. Here is a link to a wonderful interview with Baby Peggy. as well as a very cool trailer featuring Baby Peggy today that was created to raise money for a proposed documentary.
17. Marsha Hunt (born October 17, 1917 – age 98)
“I remember seeing Joan Crawford sweep into the commissary with a retinue in single file behind her. I thought it was pretty silly, but she was selling Joan Crawford, and she did a better job than anyone else. I never learned how to sell Marsha Hunt.”
Gorgeous and talented Marsha Hunt would certainly have had a much bigger film career if she hadn’t been blacklisted in the early 1950s. The actress, a former model and singer, was signed first to Paramount in 1934, where she was frequently buried in B pictures. The most significant film she made there was probably Born to the West with John Wayne (1937). She signed to MGM in 1939 seeking better roles, where she did get important supporting parts in A films, such as playing Greer Garson’s sister in both Pride and Prejudice (1940) and Blossoms in the Dust (1941), co-starring with Margaret Sullivan in Cry “Havoc” (1943) and supporting Mickey Rooney in her best known film, The Human Comedy (1943). She also had memorable roles in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) with Susan Hayward and, one of my favorites, Raw Deal (1948) with Claire Trevor.
Owing to the fact she had signed a series of petitions in the 1930s and 1940s promoting liberal ideas, as well as her membership in an organization called Committee for the First Amendment, Hunt found herself listed in Red Channels, the governments list of suspected communists. Hunt was one of the Hollywood stars (along with Bogart, Bacall, John Huston, Danny Kaye, etc.), who travelled to Washington in October, 1947 to protest the actions of congress. Thought never called to testify before HUAC, she was asked to renounce her actions. Her unwillingness to do so made work scarce over the years.
Like many who were blacklisted, Hunt found work on the New York stage. By the 1960s she was semi-retired and supplemented her occasional work with philanthropy for causes she believed in. In 1993, she published a book about fashion called The Way We Wore. And here is something quite interesting: according to Wikipedia, an upcoming documentary about the still-quite beautiful Mrs. Hunt will include a song she wrote the melody to decades ago while driving on the freeway. Here is a clip of her introducing the song “Here’s to All Who Love”—a tribute to gay marriage—and its performance by Glee’s Bill A. Jones. Clearly Marsha Hunt is a very cool person who has always had the strength of her convictions. Brava!
*About the artist:
Alvaro is a world-renowned artist celebrated for his portraits and illustrations of the icons of film, music, and pop culture, as well as his “girls”—the super models. A true New Yorker, born in Brooklyn and raised in the South Bronx, Alvaro’s work is distinctive for projecting a contemporary streetwise sensibility while simultaneously evoking the timeless glamour of classic Hollywood
You may also enjoy:
30 Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era Who Are Still Alive, Volume One
10 Forgotten Stars of The Hollywood Walk of Fame
10 Forgotten Stars of The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Volume Two
Behind the Scenes at MGM’s 1974 Premiere of That’s Entertainment!
Bettye UnderwoodJuly 23, 2015 at 7:09 am
Harry Belafonte had a busy film career in the 1950s but is not included.
Interesting about Baby Peggy. She’s born the same day as my mom, who is also still alive at 96.
David MunkJuly 24, 2015 at 3:04 pm
I hope to get to the group in Volume 3! Sounds like you have great genes in your family, Bettye! Thanks for checking in.
Kaine milnerJuly 31, 2015 at 1:24 pm
I know she’s passed now but you originally forgot Lauren Bacall of all people!!?
David MunkAugust 2, 2015 at 6:08 pm
Oy vey. It was an absolute disaster! I actually am a big fan and poor Betty just fell through my crack, as it were. I received lots of comments pointing that out. So then I began volume two, which she was going to be the featured image for and,..well you know what happened next. I ended up publishing her recipe for potato soup which was a poor substitute. What can I say? It’s hard out here for a pimp and keeping a blog going solo is both rewarding and, at times, a fool’s errand.
Thanks for reading.
Paul LangsholtJanuary 19, 2016 at 8:39 pm
John Gavin and Constance Towers as well. Also Jane Withers anyone?