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New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Place of Death
Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of Death
Claim to Fame
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Profile Bio Text
Jeffrey Hunter (born in Louisiana as Henry Herman McKinnies Jr.) was an only child. His parents met at the University of Arkansas, and when he was almost four his family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In his teens he acted in productions of the North Shore Children`s Theater, and from 1942 to 1944 performed in summer stock with the local Port Players, along with Eileen Heckart, Charlotte Rae and Morton DaCosta, and was a radio actor at WTMJ, getting his first professional paycheck in 1945 for the wartime series "Those Who Serve". After graduation from Whitefish Bay High School, where he was co-captain of the football team, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and underwent training at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois, in 1945-1946. On the eve of his transfer to duty in Japan, however, he took ill and received a medical discharge from the service.
He attended Northwestern University in Illinois and graduated with a bachelor`s degree in 1949, where he acquired more stage experience in Sheridan`s "The Rivals" and Ruth Gordon`s "Years Ago". He also did summer stock with Northwestern students at Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, in 1948, worked on two Northwestern Radio Playshop broadcasts, was president of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, and was active in the campus film society with David Bradley, later acting in Bradley`s production of Julius Caesar (1950) in 1949. Hunter went to graduate school at the University of Califiornia, Los Angeles, where he studied radio and drama. He was in the cast of a UCLA production of "All My Sons" in May 1950, and on opening night talent scouts for Paramount and 20th Century-Fox in the audience zeroed in on the tall, blue-eyed and impossibly good-looking Hunter. He made a screen test with Ed Begley in a scene from "All My Sons" at Paramount (where he met Barbara Rush, his future wife), but after an executive shake-up at that studio derailed his hiring, he was signed by 20th Century-Fox (where he remained under contract to 1959) and almost immediately sent on location in New York for Fourteen Hours (1951), all before the month was over. Hunter was kept fairly busy in pictures, working his way from featured roles to starring roles to first billing within two years in Single-Handed (1953). His big break came with The Searchers (1956), where he played the young cowboy who accompanies John Wayne on his search for a child kidnapped by Comanches. Hunter got excellent reviews for his performance in this film and justifiably so, as he held his own well with the veteran Wayne. Starring roles in two more John Ford movies followed, and in 1960 Hunter had one of his best roles in Hell to Eternity (1960), the true story of World War II hero Guy Gabaldon. That same year Hunter landed the role for which he is probably best known (although it`s far from his best work) when he played the Son of God in King of Kings (1961), which, due to Hunter`s still youthful looks, was dubbed by some Hollywood wags "I Was a Teenage Jesus," although he was 33 when he was cast. After the cancellation of his television western series "Temple Houston" (1963) in 1964 and his decision not to continue in the lead role of the new series "Star Trek" (1966) in 1965, his career took a downturn, and Hunter eventually wound up in Europe working on cheap westerns, at the time a sure sign of a career in trouble. In 1969 Hunter suffered a stroke (after just recovering from an earlier stroke), took a bad fall and underwent emergency surgery, but died from complications of both the fall and the surgery.
Couple Profile Source
Whitefish Bay High School
Full Name at Birth
Henry Herman McKinnies Jr.
Jeffrey "Jeff" Hunter (November 25, 1926 – May 27, 1969) was an American film and television actor and producer. Hunter is known for his roles as the sidekick to John Wayne's character in The Searchers, as Jesus Christ in the biblical film King of Kings, and as Capt. Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and appears in archival footage in the series' only two-part episode, "The Menagerie".
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