Born 1926 as Henry Herman “Hank” McKinnies Jr. in New Orleans, Louisiana, American actor Jeffrey Hunter was known for his roles in films such as The Searchers (1956) and King of Kings (1961). On television, Hunter is known for his 1965 role as Captain Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and the later use of that footage in the episode “The Menagerie”.
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Hunter was meant to make a movie for Universal, If I Should Die (later Appointment with a Shadow), but collapsed on his return from Europe; he was replaced by George Nader. He was off the screen for 14 months while ill with what was diagnosed as hepatitis.
Back in Hollywood, Hunter supported Bob Hope in The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968). He returned to low-budget films; Find a Place to Die (1968) was a spaghetti Western, although Hunter at least had the lead. He made some Italian films, Sexy Susan Sins Again (1968) and Cry Chicago (1969), and was set to make A Band of Brothers with Vince Edwards when he died.
Hunter suffered an intracranial hemorrhage while walking down a three-stair set of steps at his home in Van Nuys, California. He fell, knocked over a planter, and struck his head on the banister, fracturing his skull. He was found unconscious by Frank Bellow, an actor and a friend of Hunter’s, who came for a visit, and taken to Valley Presbyterian Hospital, where he underwent brain surgery. He died in the following morning at the age of 42.
Take a look at these vintage photos to see portraits of a young and handsome Jeffrey Hunter in the 1950s and 1960s.