Marsha Hunt has played many roles — the hairdresser, the unwed mother, the society snob and the chorus girl — but she has never played the fool.
When many actresses her age were posing for cheesecake swimsuit pictures, Hunt refused, determined to base her career on her acting ability rather than her good looks.
Marsha Virginia Hunt was born Oct. 17, 1917, in Chicago, the daughter of an insurance executive and a former operatic soprano and vocal coach. She was raised in New York and attended the Theodore Irving School of Dramatics. She worked as a model, then signed with Paramount Pictures at 17. But her best roles — including Mary Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice" in 1940 and Agatha Hall in "The Trial of Mary Dugan" in 1941 — were with MGM.
In 1947, her career took a downturn after a trip to Washington, D.C., during the McCarthy era. Hunt and a group of other Hollywood actors, producers and directors — including Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart — chose to testify about film and politics to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
"It was an attack," Hunt said in a 1994 interview with The Times. "Congressmen from tiny states quickly found out they could make headlines by attacking Hollywood."
When they returned, Bacall and Bogart retracted statements they had made at the hearings. Hunt did not and was blacklisted.
In all, Hunt made more than 60 films and starred in six Broadway plays and dozens of other productions. She has also done numerous radio and TV dramas, including "Matlock," "Murder, She Wrote" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
Hunt has been a longtime advocate for the United Nations and founded the San Fernando Valley Mayor's Fund for the Homeless.