Kim Hunter

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Sep 12 08:28:08 MDT 2002

NY Times, Sept. 12, 2002
Kim Hunter, 79, Actress Lauded in 'Streetcar,' Is Dead

Kim Hunter, whose eclectic 60-year career included an Oscar, two Emmy 
nominations and a Broadway triumph with her portrayal of Stella in the 
legendary 1947 debut of "A Streetcar Named Desire," died on Wednesday at 
her New York apartment. She was 79.

A founding member of the Actors Studio whose screen career was temporarily 
derailed by the Hollywood blacklists of the 1950's, Ms. Hunter was recently 
hospitalized for a fall and had been in declining health. She died of a 
heart attack in her apartment above the Cherry Lane Theater in the West 
Village, said her daughter, Kathryn Emmett.

Ms. Hunter caught the acting bug in elementary school and was never a snob 
about the roles she chose, mixing highly demanding parts with smaller ones 
in B-movies, long stints in regional theater, television guest appearance 
and even a running role on an ABC soap opera, "The Edge of Night," in 1979 
and 1980.

But without doubt the roles for which she is most remembered are Stella 
Kowalski, Marlon Brando's passionate and beleaguered wife in the stage and 
film versions of Tennessee Williams's "Streetcar Named Desire," and Dr. 
Zira, the coquettish simian with a fondness for Charlton Heston in the 1968 
film "Planet of the Apes."

The role of Stella also won her an Academy Award for best supporting 
actress when the director Elia Kazan adapted his Broadway production to the 
screen. The scenes of an anguished Stanley Kowalski (Mr. Brando), 
disheveled and grimy, screaming up to his wife — "Stella!" — in the 
backyard of their seedy New Orleans home, and of Ms. Hunter's sexually 
charged descent on a winding staircase into his arms, have become iconic 
cinematic moments.

Feisty, occasionally profane, Ms. Hunter frequently told interviewers that 
she had no use for the trappings of Hollywood stardom that had always 
eluded her.

"The work itself has been my life," she said in 1999. "I was never in this 
for jazzy stardom, and as far as that's concerned, I've never had it. 
Doesn't matter to me."

Ms. Hunter was born in Detroit, and her father died four years later. Her 
mother and stepfather moved the family to Miami Beach when she was 10, and 
there she developed a taste for the theater.

"I was lonely growing up," she said. "My only brother was nine years older 
and had little time for me. So I picked friends out of books and played 
let's-pretend games, acting out their characters before a mirror."

Before long she had an acting coach and made her stage debut at 17 in the 
title role of "Penny Wise" at the Miami Women's Club. Later she took roles 
with stock companies around the country. At the Pasadena Playhouse in 
California, in "Arsenic and Old Lace," she was spotted by a talent scout 
and signed to a contract with the producer David O. Selznick.

For her 1943 screen debut, Selznick loaned her to the horror-film producer 
Val Lewton, for whom she played a young woman battling devil worshipers in 
"The Seventh Victim."

Shortly afterward, Ms. Hunter took a supporting role in the Ginger Rogers 
film "Tender Comrade," about young women living communally during World War 
II, a film that struck some as pro-Soviet. It was cited, years later, as a 
reason that her name appeared in "Red Channels," a 1950's pamphlet naming 
suspected Communist sympathizers.

Ms. Hunter, a liberal Democrat, had been a vocal supporter of civil rights, 
though she never belonged to the Communist Party. She said she traced her 
problems with the blacklist to a world peace symposium that she helped 
sponsor in 1949. No one ever announced that she was on a blacklist, she said.

"Gradually it became sort of clear," she said. "I think CBS was first. I 
was on the blacklist at CBS. No more CBS television. Then I think ABC 
dropped out and then, finally, it was NBC. And then by that time, I won my 
Oscar for the movie of `Streetcar,' but I could not work in films. The last 
film I made was in 1951."

Her hiatus from the screen lasted until 1956, when she appeared opposite 
Bette Davis in "Storm Center," about book-burning. "I thought, uh-oh, here 
we go again," she said. But her political problems did not reignite.


Louis Proyect

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