Kim Hunter (November 12, 1922 – September 11, 2002) was an American film, theatre, and television actress. She won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award, each as Best Supporting Actress, for her performance as Stella Kowalski in the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire. Decades later she received a Daytime Emmy Award for her work on the long-running soap The Edge of Night.
Hunter was born Janet Cole in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Grace Lind, who was trained as a concert pianist, and Donald Cole, a refrigeration engineer. She attended Miami Beach High School.
Hunter's first film role was in the 1943 film noir, The Seventh Victim. In 1947, she performed in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire, playing the role of Stella Kowalski. Recreating that role in the 1951 film version, Hunter won both the Academy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actress. In the interim, however, back in 1948, she had already joined with 'Streetcar' co-stars Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and 47 others, to become one of the very first members accepted by the newly created Actors Studio.
In 1952, fresh on the heels of her Supporting Actress Oscar, Hunter would become Humphrey Bogart's leading lady in Deadline USA. From Brando to Bogart, both critical and commercial success; it certainly seemed that Hunter's star was on the rise. For Hunter, however, as for so many, such certainties were about to be short-circuited.
Hunter was blacklisted from film and television in the 1950s, amid suspicions of communism in Hollywood, during the McCarthy Era. Streetcar director Elia Kazan gave her name to the House Un-American Activities Committee. She still appeared in an episode of CBS's anthology series Appointment with Adventure and NBC's Justice, based on case files of the New YorkLegal Aid Society.
She appeared opposite Mickey Rooney in the 1957 live CBS-TV broadcast of The Comedian, a harrowing drama written by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer. In 1959 she appeared in Rawhide season 1/16 episode Incident of the Misplaced Indians as Amelia Spaulding. In 1962, she appeared in the NBC medical drama The Eleventh Hour in the role of Virginia Hunter in the episode Of Roses and Nightingales and Other Lovely Things. In 1963, Hunter appeared as Anita Anson on the ABC medical drama Breaking Point in the episode Crack in an Image. In 1965, she appeared twice as Emily Field in the NBC TV medical series Dr. Kildare.
Her other major film roles include David Niven's character's love interest in the film A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and Zira, the sympathetic chimpanzee scientist in the 1968 film Planet of the Apes and two sequels. She also appeared in several radio and TV soap operas, most notably as Nola Madison on TV's The Edge of Night, for which she received a Daytime Emmy Awardnomination in 1980 as Best Actress. In 1979 she appeared as First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson in the serial drama Backstairs at the White House.
Hunter starred in the controversial TV movie Born Innocent (1974) playing the mother of Linda Blair's character. She also starred in several episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater during the mid-1970s. In 1971 she appeared in an episode of Cannon. In the same year she starred in a Columbo "Suitable for Framing". In 1973, she appeared twice on Lorne Greene's short-lived ABCcrime drama Griff, including the episode The Last Ballad, in which she portrayed Dr. Martha Reed, an abortionist held by police in the death of a patient. In 1977, she appeared on the NBCwestern series The Oregon Trail starring Rod Taylor, in the episode The Waterhole, which also featured Lonny Chapman.
Although not recognizable because of the costume and make-up, Hunter's most frequently played movie role was that of Dr. Zira in the film Planet of the Apes and its two sequels.
Death and legacy
Hunter died of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 79. She received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures at 1615 Vine Street and a second for television at 1715 Vine Street.