His appearance in the western classic ‘The Searchers’ made him a Hollywood Star




ORIGINAL NAME Henry Herman McKinnies

He was a Hollywood mainstay spanning two decades starring or co-starring in a wide variety of movies: dramas, comedies, westerns, science fiction and war films. He was well prepared when signed to a contract by 20th Century Fox Studios making a debut with Grace Kelly in the film ‘Fourteen Hours.’

While at Whitefish Bay High School in Milwaukee, then known by his birth name, Henry McKinnies, Jr., he acted on Milwaukee radio station WTMJ and in productions at the North Shore Children’s Theater. Henry performed three summer stock seasons with the local Port Players. After graduation from high school where he co-captained the football team, he enlisted in the Navy during the closing months of the war but received a medical discharge with the rank of Seaman First Class after one year. The GI Bill enabled him to attend Northwestern University where he received a bachelor’s degree from the School of Speech. During his college stay, he was cast in the lead role in many campus productions. While attending Graduate school in radio at UCLA and appearing in a school production, a talent scout was in the audience. A successful screen test was arranged. With a movie career looming, he assumed the name Jeffrey Hunter. His appearance in the western classic ‘The Searchers’ made him a Hollywood Star.

He was cast in his most challenging role as Jesus Christ in ‘The King of Kings’ which won high praise from religious movie critics who recommended it for all viewers. Hunter made the film ‘The Man From Galveston’ which was the pilot episode of a forthcoming television series ‘Temple Houston’. Thirty episodes of the series were filmed starring Jeffrey Hunter before falling to cancellation. Movie roles mostly disappeared but for the next several years he appeared in minor rolls in European and Asian films. Hunter signed a contract with Desilu Studios cast as Captain Christopher Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise which was a two-part episode and a pilot for ‘Star Trek.’

However, he turned down his option to continue in the role in the television series which became a classic. A few months before his tragic death, he was married a third time to actress Emily McLaughlin who played a nurse on the ABC soap opera ‘General Hospital.’ While on location in Spain filming ‘Viva America,’ He was accidentally injured on the set. Upon return to his home in Van Nuys, California he experienced dizziness and headaches and was briefly hospitalized. While in his residence, he fell striking his head.

Taken to Valley hospital in Los Angeles, it was determined he had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Surgery failed and Jeffrey Hunter was gone at age 42. His funeral was a small private affair at St Mark’s Episcopal Church, Altadena with burial following at Glen Haven Memorial Park.

by: Donald Greyfield


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