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James J  Cremin Written by James J Cremin
Feb. 19, 2010 | 6:45 PM

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A Call From the Stars 1960 Produced by Marsha Hunt

Hollywood Heritage Museam
50th anniversary screaming of
“A Call from the Stars”
with Special Guest Marsha Hunt

On the evening of February 18, 2010, attendees were treated to a time capsule of an independently produced television program that was produced by Marsha Hunt. Though announced in TV Guide, none of the major networks carried it.  This program was also shown once locally here, a few more times in some major cities such as Chicago and New York, then shelved for fifty years.

Ms. Hunt is now ninety-three years young, and currently the subject of a documentary in progress, “Marsha Hunt: Sweet Adversity” being produced by Zelda Can Dance Productions, which is Roger C. Memos, along with Richard Adkins and Joan Cohen.  Sixteen minutes of this was shown, which also served to give a good introduction and overview of Hunt’s life up to this point.

She began public life as a seventeen year old ing?nue at Paramount in 1935 and recounts the story of she almost became Melanie in “Gone With The Wind” and said show business would never break her heart again.

She spent a good part of the forties making several movie at MGM.  In 1947, the Screen Actors Guild faced a major strike and the House of Un-American Activities began their hearings in full force.  Though she or husband Robert Presnell, Jr., were ever directly accused of being communists, they got blacklisted and she became a theatre actress full time.  As her writer husband got jobs all over the world, she began thinking herself as a world citizen.

In 1959, President Eisenhower declared from July 1st, 1959 to June 30th, 1960, the year of the refugee.  Hunt was given an opportunity to produce a hour long program but decided not to have the word “refugee” in the title, hence “A Call From the Stars”.  She remembers three films on the subject were used, one complete and two that were edited down.  It was images of these that the celebrities spoke upon when making their pleas to donate.

They were Paul Newman, Bing Crosby, Joanne Woodward, David Niven, Harry Belafonte, Jean Simmons, Burl Ives, Louis Jordan, Steve Allen, Robert Ryan, Spring Byington, Jeff Chandler, Marsha Hunt and Richard Boone. Among the areas showcased were China, India, the Middle East, Africa and South America.

These areas are also the poorest areas of 2010.  Though there were some technical problems, the television show was seen in its entirety.  It would be great to have this brought forward to today’s world.  Newman was one of the most articulate, quoting statistics such as American spend a lot of money on boose and cigarettes and could easily donate without really missing it.  Ives went back to Eisenhower’s notes when it was his turn at the camera.  Ryan actually bookend his appearances, being the first and the last.  Seen today, it’s missing the “bells and whistles” of multiples images and music during narration but historically very fascinating.  I do wish this documentary gets widely and Ms. Hunt’s voice gets heard.

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