Ac­tor, Arkansas na­tive Arthur Hun­ni­cutt

El Dorado News-Times - - Viewpoint - Ken Bridges

Some actors be­come fa­mous star­ring in block­buster movies or may only be fa­mous for one line or one part. Some­times the actors who rarely play the lead­ing role are the ones who make a movie the most en­joy­able part of the story. Arkansas na­tive and char­ac­ter ac­tor Arthur Hun­ni­cutt was one such ac­tor, known for his sup­port­ing roles in dozens of west­erns be­tween the 1940s and 1970s, star­ring with some of the most fa­mous actors of the era.

Arthur Lee Hun­ni­cutt was born in Yell County in western Arkansas in 1910. As a youth, he was a clever stu­dent and even­tu­ally made his way to what was then the Arkansas State Teach­ers Col­lege in Con­way (the mod­ern Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Arkansas). Out of money, Hun­ni­cutt was forced to drop out of col­lege in his ju­nior year. He took to the road, work­ing a se­ries of odd jobs un­til he came to Bos­ton where he be­came an ac­tor.

He quickly found a lot of suc­cess on stage. Hun­ni­cutt eas­ily ex­ag­ger­ated his nat­u­ral Arkansas drawl for mem­o­rable ef­fect in roles that called for a ru­ral char­ac­ter. This, added to his charm and skills as an ac­tor, led to his be­ing in de­mand on stage. Soon af­ter­ward, he be­gan ap­pear­ing on stage in New York and in tour­ing pro­duc­tions spon­sored by the Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion. By the early 1940s, he at­tracted the at­ten­tion of film pro­duc­ers. His first role was co-star­ring in the 1942 film “Wild­cat,” a story about oil­men. This would be the first of more than 90 film and tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances for Hun­ni­cutt. Later in 1942, he ap­peared as “Arkansas” in the first of a se­ries of low-bud­get west­erns with ac­tor Charles Star­rett.

In the 1950s, he ap­peared in some of his most ac­claimed roles. In 1950, he co-starred with Jimmy Stew­art in “Bro­ken Ar­row.” The next year, he co-starred with war hero Audie Mur­phy in the adap­ta­tion of the Civil War epic “The Red Badge of Courage.” In 1952, he ap­peared in his most cel­e­brated film, “The Big Sky,” with Kirk Dou­glas. In “The Big Sky,” Hun­ni­cutt played Zeb Cal­loway, a fur trader in the soft-spo­ken, wise-crack­ing per­sona that he had be­come known for. The film earned two Academy Award nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing Hun­ni­cutt for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tor. In 1955, he ap­peared as Davy Crock­ett in “The Last Com­mand,” a tale of the ill-fated de­fense of the Alamo in 1836. Such noted actors as Ster­ling Hay­den, Ernest Borg­nine, and Slim Pick­ens also ap­peared in the film.

In 1962, in one of his later roles, he played a gruff moun­tain farmer in the Twi­light Zone episode, “The Hunt.” In the episode, his char­ac­ter and his beloved dog both die in a hunt­ing ac­ci­dent. He spends most of the episode per­plexed as to why his wife and friends are ig­nor­ing him un­til he

re­al­izes that the two had died the night be­fore.

Hun­ni­cutt was pop­u­lar with co-stars and the gen­eral pub­lic. In ap­pre­ci­a­tion for his act­ing and good­will, he was made hon­orary mayor of Granada Hills, a wealthy neigh­bor­hood of Los An­ge­les.

In 1965, he played an older Butch Cas­sidy in the western “Cat Bal­lou” with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin. In 1967, he co-starred in the western “El Do­rado” with John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and James Caan. In this film, he plays a side­kick to Wayne and steals many scenes with his quips and one-lin­ers.

Hun­ni­cutt con­tin­ued to ap­pear in a se­ries of guest roles on var­i­ous tele­vi­sion se­ries in the 1960s and early 1970s. He had sev­eral roles on Bo­nanza and guest starred as the pa­tri­arch of a feud­ing fam­ily on The Andy Grif­fith Show in 1960. He ap­peared on such pro­grams as Perry Ma­son, Adam-12, The Vir­ginian, Gun­smoke, and My Three Sons. By the 1970s, his ca­reer was qui­etly wind­ing down. He played in a few small roles, mostly made­for-TV movies, with his last ap­pear­ance in the 1975 western “Win­ter­hawk.”

In the late 1970s, he was struck with can­cer. He died in 1979 at the age of 69 and was buried in his beloved Arkansas.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.