Friday, May 27, 2011

Jeffrey Hunter & Ruth McDevitt

On May 27, 1969, actor Jeffrey Hunter died. He was born on November 25, 1926 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The handsome leading man began acting in local theater and radio in his early teens. In 1950, while a graduate student in radio at the University of California, Los Angeles and appearing in a college play, he was spotted by talent scouts who offered him a contract at 20th Century-Fox. He made his Hollywood debut in “Julius Caesar” (1950) and by 1952 achieved top billing in “Red Skies of Montana” (1952), then in “Sailor of the King” (1953). He co-starred with John Wayne in “The Searchers” (1956). He made two additional films with director John Ford; “The Last Hurrah” (1958) and “Sergeant Rutledge” (1960). Ford also recommended Hunter to director Nicholas Ray for the role of Jesus in the Biblical film “King of Kings” (1961), a difficult part met by critical reaction that ranged from praise to ridicule. He appeared in the all-star cast in “The Longest Day” (1960), a World War II battle epic.

Having guest-starred on television dramas since the mid-1950s, Hunter was now offered a two-year contract by Warner Brothers that included starring as circuit-riding Texas lawyer Temple Lea Houston, the youngest son of Sam Houston, in the NBC series Temple Houston (1963–64), which Hunter's production company co-produced. Although Temple Houston did not survive its first season, Hunter accepted the lead role of Captain Christopher Pike in "The Cage,” the first pilot episode of Star Trek. In 1965, Hunter declined to film a second Star Trek pilot as requested by NBC, and instead decided to concentrate on motion pictures such as “Brainstorm” (1965). With the demise of the studio contract system in the early 1960’s and the outsourcing of much feature production, Hunter, like many other leading men of the 1950s, had to find work in B movies produced in Europe, Hong Kong, and Mexico, with the occasional television guest part in Hollywood.

Hunter's first marriage was to actress Barbara Rush (1950–1955) with whom he had a son, Christopher, in 1952. From 1957 to 1967, he was married to model Dusty Bartlett. He adopted her son, Steele, and the couple had two other children, Todd and Scott. In February 1969, he married actress Emily McLaughlin. In early 1969, Hunter suffered a stroke while flying back to the U.S. from Spain after filming “Viva America” and while recovering at his home, he suffered another stroke, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs. He sustained a skull fracture and died from a cerebral hemorrhage on May 27, 1969. Hunter is buried at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Sylmar, California.

On May 27, 1976, actresses Ruth McDevitt died. She was born on September 13, 1895 in Coldwater, Michigan. After attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she married Patrick McDevitt and decided to devote her time to her marriage. After her husband's death in 1934, she returned to acting. She performed on Broadway, in particular understudying and succeeding Josephine Hull in Arsenic and Old Lace and The Solid Gold Cadillac.

McDevitt was a familiar face on television during the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. She played "Mom Peepers" in the 1950s sitcom Mr. Peepers. She was a regular with Ann Sheridan, Douglas Fowley, and Gary Vinson in CBS's Pistols 'n' Petticoats, a 1966-67 satire of the Old West. The series attracted a good audience, but was cancelled two months after Sheridan's 1967 death from cancer. From 1974-75, McDevitt also had a regular role as Emily Cowles on Kolchak: the Night Stalker, starring Darren McGavin. She also guest starred in such series as Suspense, Cosmopolitan Theatre, Decoy, Westinghouse Studio One, The United States Steel Hour, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, Mayberry R.F.D., I Dream of Jeannie, Here's Lucy, Bewitched, Love, American Style, Room 222, Mannix, Gunsmoke, Marcus Welby, M.D., All in the Family, and The Streets of San Francisco. She died on May 27, 1976 at age 80, in Hollywood, California. She is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

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