Martita Hunt

Last updated

Martita Hunt
Actress Martita Hunt.jpg
Born(1900-01-30)30 January 1900
Died13 June 1969(1969-06-13) (aged 69)
Hampstead, London, England
OccupationActress
Years active1920–1969

Martita Edith Hunt (30 January 1900 13 June 1969) was an Argentine-born British theatre and film actress. She had a dominant stage presence and played a wide range of powerful characters. She is best remembered for her performance as Miss Havisham in David Lean's Great Expectations .

Contents

Biography

Early life

Hunt was born in Buenos Aires on 30 January 1900 [1] to English parents Alfred and Marta (née Burnett) Hunt. She spent the first 20 years of her life in Argentina [ citation needed ] before she returned with her parents to the United Kingdom to attend Queenwood Ladies' College in Eastbourne and then to train as an actress.

Early theatrical career

Hunt began her acting career in repertory theatre at Liverpool before moving to London. She first appeared there in the Stage Society's production of Ernst Toller's The Machine Wreckers at the Kingsway Theatre in May 1923. From 1923 to 1929, she appeared as the Principessa della Cercola in W. Somerset Maugham's Our Betters (Globe, 1924) and as Mrs. Linde in Ibsen's A Doll's House (Playhouse, 1925) in the West End, along with engagements at club theatres such as the Q Theatre and the Arts Theatre and a short 1926 Chekhov season at the small Barnes Theatre under Theodore Komisarjevsky (playing Charlotta Ivanovna, in The Cherry Orchard and Olga in Three Sisters ). [ citation needed ]

In September 1929, she joined the Old Vic company, then led by Harcourt Williams, and, during the following eight months played Béline in Molière's The Imaginary Invalid , Queen Elizabeth in George Bernard Shaw's The Dark Lady of the Sonnets , and Lavinia in Shaw's Androcles and the Lion . However, her time there was more noted for a succession of Shakespearean roles: the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet , Portia in The Merchant of Venice , the Queen in Richard II , Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream , Portia in Julius Caesar ), including roles with John Gielgud (Rosalind in As You Like It , Lady Macbeth in Macbeth , and Gertrude in Hamlet ).

In Hunt's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Donald Roy wrote:

"With an arresting appearance and a dominant stage presence, she proved most effective as strong, tragic characters, her Gertrude in Hamlet being accounted by some critics the finest they had seen."

She then returned to the West End (briefly returning to the Old Vic to play Emilia in the 1938 Othello ), notably playing Edith Gunter in Dodie Smith's Autumn Crocus (Lyric, 1931), the Countess of Rousillon in All's Well That Ends Well (Arts, 1932), Lady Strawholme in Ivor Novello's Fresh Fields (Criterion, 1933), Liz Frobisher in John Van Druten's The Distaff Side (Apollo, 1933), Barbara Dawe in Clemence Dane's Moonlight Is Silver (Queen's, 1934), Theodora in Elmer Rice's Not for Children (Fortune, 1935), Masha in Chekhov's The Seagull (New Theatre, 1936), the Mother in an English-language version of García Lorca's Bodas de sangre ("Marriage of Blood"; Savoy, 1939), Léonie in Jean Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles (Gate, 1940), Mrs Cheveley in Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband (Westminster, 1943), and Cornelia in John Webster's The White Devil (Duchess, 1947).

Early film career

Hunt also appeared in many supporting roles in several popular British films such as Good Morning, Boys (1937), Trouble Brewing (1939), and The Man in Grey (1943). The Wicked Lady (1945) was an international success, but her next film role in David Lean's Great Expectations (1946) would be her most famous and most lauded. [2] As Miss Havisham, she reprised her role from the 1939 stage adaptation by Alec Guinness which provided the inspiration and template for Lean's film. Her performance met with significant acclaim, and Roger Ebert later wrote in 1999 that she "dominate[d] the [film's] early scenes, playing Miss Havisham as a beak-nosed, shabby figure, bedecked in crumbling lace and linen, not undernourished despite her long exile." [3]

Later career

From this time on, she divided her time between British and American films as well as the stage. She won a Tony Award in 1949 for her Broadway début as Countess Aurelia in the English-speaking première of Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot (though she had relatively less impact on the production's 1952 tour). Her last stage role was as Angélique Boniface in Hotel Paradiso , an adaptation from Feydeau, again with Guinness at the Winter Garden Theatre in May 1956. [4]

Other films in which she appeared include: Anna Karenina (1948), The Fan (1949), Anastasia (1956), Three Men in a Boat (1956), The Admirable Crichton (1957), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), Becket (1964), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) and Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965). She also appeared on TV as Lady Bastable in several adaptations of the Saki stories (1962) [2] [4]

Death

Martita Hunt died of bronchial asthma at her home in Hampstead, London, aged 69, on 13 June 1969. Her estate was valued at £5,390. She never married. She was an aunt of actor Gareth Hunt. [5]

She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 19 June and her ashes lie in the Ivor Novello Rose Bed.

Selected filmography

Related Research Articles

Athene Seyler English actress

Athene Seyler, CBE was an English actress.

Joan Hickson British actress

Joan Bogle Hickson, OBE was an English actress of theatre, film and television. She was known for her role as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in the television series Miss Marple. She also narrated a number of Miss Marple stories on audiobooks.

Cathleen Nesbitt

Cathleen Nesbitt was an English actress of stage, film and television.

Marie Ault British actress

Marie Ault was a British character actress of stage and film.

Helen Haye

Helen Haye was a British stage and film actress.

Jessie Ralph American actress

Jessie Ralph Patton, known as Jessie Ralph, was an American stage and screen actress, best known for her matronly roles in many classic movies.

Elizabeth Patterson (actress) American actress

Mary Elizabeth Patterson was an American theatre, film, and television character actress who gained popular recognition late in her career playing the elderly neighbor Matilda Trumbull on the television comedy series I Love Lucy.

Nydia Westman

Nydia Eileen Westman was an American actress and singer of stage, screen, and television.

Norma Varden English actress

Norma Varden Shackleton, known professionally as Norma Varden, was an English–American actress with a long film career.

Alison Skipworth

Alison Skipworth was an English stage and screen actress.

Elisabeth Risdon English film actress

Elisabeth Risdon was an English film actress. She appeared in over 140 films between 1913 and 1952. A beauty in her youth, she usually played in society parts. In later years in films she switched to playing character parts.

Doris Lloyd American actress

Hessy Doris Lloyd was an English–American actress of screen and stage. She is perhaps best known for her roles in The Time Machine (1960) and The Sound of Music (1965). During her career, Lloyd appeared in two Academy-Award winners and four other nominees.

Vera Lewis American actress

Vera Lewis was an American film and stage actress, beginning in the silent film era. She appeared in 183 films between 1915 and 1947. She was married to actor Ralph Lewis.

Nella Walker American actress

Nella Walker was an American film actress and vaudeville performer of the 1920s through the 1950s.

Ethel Griffies

Ethel Griffies was an English actress of stage, screen and television. She is perhaps best-known to modern audiences as the ornithologist Mrs. Bundy in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). She appeared in stage roles in her native England and in the United States, and had featured roles in around 100 motion pictures, she was one of the oldest working actors in the English speaking theatre at the time of her death at 97 years old. She acted alongside such stars as May Whitty, Ellen Terry and Anna Neagle.

Cecil Cunningham Film actress

Edna Cecil Cunningham was an American film and stage actress, singer, and comedienne.

Mary Forbes British-American actress

Mary Forbes was a British-American film actress, based in the United States in her latter years, where she died. She appeared in more than 130 films between 1919 and 1958.

Nana Bryant American actress

Nana Irene Bryant was an American film, stage, and television actress. She appeared in more than 100 films between 1935 and 1955. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and died in Hollywood, California.

Georgia Caine

Georgiana Caine was an American actress who performed both on Broadway and in more than 80 films in her 51-year career.

Eily Malyon was an English character actress from about 1900 to the 1940s. She had career on the British stage before coming to Hollywood to perform in motion pictures.

References

  1. Roy, Donald (2004). "Hunt, Martita (1900–1969)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. 1 2 Martita Hunt on IMDb
  3. Review of Great Expectations, Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  4. 1 2 Martita Hunt at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. "Gareth Hunt – Obituary". The Times . London, UK. 15 March 2007.

Sources