Sunday, December 17, 2006

Kim Hunter

Mention the name of actress Kim Hunter to most people and you'll be met with a blank look (I know, I've tried it). Hunter should be a household name. She played Stella in the first Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire and reprised the role five years later for the film version, winning an Oscar for her perfromance. This should have heralded the beginning of a glittering career, but she became one of the victims of Senator McCarthy and was effectively blacklisted by the main Hollywood studios. As a result, Hunter's body of work is very small but oddly enough, she appears in three of my favourite films.

In 1946, Hunter co-starred with David Niven in my favourite film of all time, A Matter of Life and Death...Then, 22 years later, she played a chimpanzee...

Kim Hunter's performance as the feisty scientist Zira was one of the highlights of Planet of the Apes. In an interview, Hunter says that it took over four hours to put on the ape make-up and she ended up taking valium to get through it, but it was worth it.

Around the same time, Hunter also had a bit part in another of my favourite films, The Swimmer.
Hunter continued to work, appearing in the wonderful Beneath the Planet of the Apes and the appalling Escape from the Planet of the Apes but the big film roles eluded her, probably thanks to Hollywood's endemic ageism. She died in 2002 at the age of 79.

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