His career was relatively short — nearly 70 credits over two decades — but he had an impact. That’s him with Vera Miles.
The thing about Jeffrey Hunter, born Henry McKinnies Jr. in 1926, was that he was damn goodlooking. That generated a range of screen roles, of course, but never fully framed Hunter as a credible actor.
The sad part of this was the fact that Hunter’s health failed him early. In 1969, he was felled by a series of strokes, one of which sent him hurdling towards a stairway banister on the steps of his Van Nuys, California home. He was hospitalized and died while being operated on for a skull fracture. He was all of 42 years old.
He married three times. His first wife was actress Barbara Rush.
Hunter is still celebrated for his portrayal of Christ.
The picture is King of Kings. If you’ve never seen it, see it at least once. (It got much better reviews than did The Robe, that Richard Burton vehicle.)
The MGM production backed by Samuel Bronston, one of the great maverick producers of Hollywood history, King of Kings was shot largely in Spain. Directed for the most part by Nicholas Ray, it covers the entire life of Jesus with the benefit of an all-star cast including Robert Ryan, Hurd Hatfield, Viveca Lindfors and Rip Torn, with narration by none other than Orson Welles.
Check Hunter out as a smooth-talking tutor in the 1956 drama, A Kiss Before Dying, starring Robert Wagner.
But there is no question that the role of Hunter’s career was in John Ford’s classic 1956 western, The Searchers.
Hunter plays Martin Pawley, a hotheaded and often clueless youth who matures before our eyes into the powerful physical and moral counterweight to a grizzled, semi-deranged cowpoke played by John Wayne Hunter’s is a terrific performance, one to remember him by.