Saturday, July 24, 2021

Jeffrey Hunter


Jeffrey Hunter was born Henry Herman "Hank" McKinnies, Jr. in New Orleans on November 25, 1926.  His family relocated to Milwaukee in the 1930s, where he attended Whitefish Bay High School, serving as Captain of the football team.  He was already active in the local theatre scene and was performing on radio as well, having made his professional debut while still a student. 

After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy and served his country during World War 2.  He trained as a radar technician and was assigned to the Ninth Naval District in Great Lakes, Illinois.  He never saw any combat duty however, having broken an arch-bone in a high school football accident.  He was discharged after one year of service and was a recipient of the World War 2 Victory Medal.

Following his discharge, he enrolled at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  There he majored in speech and radio and began appearing in college productions.  During the summers, he gained practical experience working with the NBC Radio Institute in Chicago.

His first film role came in 1949, when he and other Northwestern students were cast in Julius Caesar.  While not a big role for him, the film is best remembered as the breakout vehicle for actor Charlton Heston.  You can watch it in its entirety on YouTube.

He graduated in 1949 and immediately enrolled in UCLA to get his master's degree in radio.  During this time, he was first spotted by talent scouts and eventually signed with 20th Century Fox.  While they were impressed by his acting and his natural good looks, they were less than enthusiastic about his name.  The studio christened him "Jeffrey Hunter" on June 1, 1950.

His first role at Fox was in the 1951 film Fourteen Hours opposite Debra Paget.  Subsequent films that year included Call Me Mister and The Frogmen, in which he co-starred with another new young actor, Robert Wagner.

Buoyed by the response from these films, Fox positioned Hunter in leading-man roles.  His first starring role was in 1952's Lure of the Wilderness, opposite Jean Peters. He had a good run for the next several years, starring in such hits as Dreamboat (1952), Three Young Texans (1954) and Princess of the Nile (1954).

In the mid-1950s, Hunter's career unexpectedly stalled, and he was loaned out to United Artists, where he appeared with Joanne Woodward in A Kiss Before Dying and opposite John Wayne in The Searchers.  This led to a resurgence in his career, and he'd soon go to work for Disney.

His career hit another snag in 1957 however, when Hunter was diagnosed with hepatitis.  It kept him from working for more than a year and he lost several roles, including the lead in 1957's Appointment With A Shadow.  Veteran actor George Nader replaced him in the role.  Another rebound was just around the corner.

In 1961, Hunter appeared as Jesus Christ himself in the $8 million epic King of Kings (left).  Though panned by critics (natch), it was a huge hit at the box office and remains one of Hunter's most fondly remembered films.  Of the role, Hunter once stated "I've broken my shackles at last.  Christ was a carpenter and 33 years old, and I am 33, and I suppose my physical measurements fitted the description in the New Testament.  At the time of His death, He was robust, and not a delicate man."

Two years later, Hunter returned to the small screen, assuming the title role of a new western series called Temple Houston.  Although it was a moderate ratings hit, NBC canceled the series after only one season.  Just like Baywatch.

Following the cancelation, Hunter signed on to the role for which I most remember him, that of Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot (right).  As most people know, this pilot episode was rejected by NBC, but executives gave producer Gene Roddenberry a second chance, asking him to produce one with more action and adventure. Hunter would not return to the series however, and the reason for this is still a subject of debate among die-hard Trekkies.  

In 1968, Hunter was in Spain filming Cry Chicago, when he was injured in an on-set explosion.  A car window, which had been rigged to explode outward, instead exploded inward, and Hunter sustained a serious concussion.  On the return flight to the United States, he went into shock and could neither speak nor move.  Upon landing in Los Angeles, he was rushed to the hospital, but doctors shockingly found nothing wrong.  But the wheels of fate were already in motion.

On May 26, 1969, Hunter collapsed in his Van Nuys home and fractured his skull.  Doctors attributed it to an intracranial hemorrhage and performed immediate brain surgery.  Surgeons were unsuccessful however, and Hunter died later that evening.  He was 42 years old.

Jeffrey Hunter was interred at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Sylmar, California.  This blogger recommends avoiding the site during the noontime hour, as the shade of a nearby tree makes taking pictures difficult.

Location: Olive Section, Lot #141, Grave E.

Here's a clearer picture borrowed from the web.

Rest in peace, Captain.


  • Hunter auditioned and actively lobbied for the role of Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch, but creator Sherwood Schwartz felt he was too good looking to be an architect.  Hmm.  What does that say about Robert Reed?

  • Hunter was a descendant of Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States.

  • In 1955, Hunter opened his own production company, Hunter Enterprises.  Ironic name, isn't it?

  • In 1957, Hunter recorded an album of love songs, including one dedicated to his wife.  However, the album was never released, and shockingly, it is not on YouTube.

  • Hunter was close friends with future James Bond actor Roger Moore, who's son Geoffrey Moore was named in his honor.

  • Hunter died just one week before the final episode of Star Trek aired on NBC.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Oral Roberts


"I need some very quick money, so I know when March comes I won't be taken.  I'll get to live."
  -- Oral Roberts, 1987

Granville Oral Roberts was born in Ada, Oklahoma on January 24, 1918.  He was the youngest of five children to the Reverend Ellis Roberts and his wife Claudia.

Roberts grew up poor and his health often suffered.  He almost died of tuberculosis when he was 17, but he recovered and later finished high school.  He'd attend both Oklahoma Baptist University and Phillips University, but never completed a degree.

In the 1940s, Roberts followed in his father's footsteps and answered the call to serve God.  He hit the road as a traveling faith healer, conducting his sermons in a large mobile tent.

Roberts took a break from traveling in 1945, when he accepted a preaching position in Toccoa, Georgia.  He was unaware however, that the Georgia conference of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church preferred local ministers to head their congregations and he was asked to move on.  Although his time in Georgia was brief, it had two long-lasting impacts on Roberts and his family.  It was there that daughter Rebecca met her future husband, Marshall (see Trivia below).  Also, Roberts claimed to have healed two of his parishioners, later stating "I was approaching my hour."

Buoyed by this, Roberts returned to the road in 1947.  He conducted faith-healing sessions all over the world, using his own monthly magazine Healing Waters to promote them.  His tent revivals became very popular with the faithful, and through the years, he'd conduct more than 300 of them on six continents, eventually healing more than two million people.  Roberts eschewed the term "faith healer" however, stating "God heals - I don't."  During this time, Roberts first began proclaiming that he could raise the dead, and not just to vote. 

In 1954, as television was becoming increasingly popular, Roberts took advantage of the new medium, becoming one of the first televangelists.  By 1957, his program The Abundant Life was reaching more than 80 percent of all viewers.  That's more than your average Super Bowl.  He also hosted primetime specials throughout the 1970s, all of which were ratings juggernauts.  Here's one such broadcast from 1958.

Stating that he was acting on orders from God, Roberts founded Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1963.  With a motto of "educating the whole man," it is still accredited today, offering 70 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs.  As of this posting, it has more than 4,000 students, most of whom choose ministry as their field of study.

God spoke to Roberts again in 1977, telling him to build the City of Faith Medical and Research Center in Tulsa.  Construction began in 1979 and the center accepted its first patient just two years later.  At the time, it was the largest health facility in the world, designed to merge both prayer and medicine in the healing process. 

The center proved too costly to maintain however, and in 1987, Roberts famously declared that if he didn't raise $8 million by March of that year, God would "call him home."  Although he was ultimately successful in raising the money, the facility closed its doors in 1989.  It was later converted into a high-rise office center redubbed "CityPlex Towers" (above).

Controversy would visit ORU as well.  In 2007, Roberts' son Richard resigned from the presidency after being named in a lawsuit alleging improper use of university funds.  Roberts himself stepped in to fill the vacancy, but his term would be short lived.

By 2009, Roberts' health was in decline, and he ultimately passed from pneumonia on December 15.  He was 91 years old.  CBS News covered his life and passing.

Roberts was buried in his family plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Location: Section #45, Lot #61
Inscription #1: Something Good is Going to Happen to You
Inscription #2: God is a Good God (3 John 1:2)

Wife Evelyn passed four years earlier.  The two inscriptions on her half of the marker say "Don't Turn Him Away" and "In Your Presence is Fullness of Joy (Psalm 16:11)."

Rest in peace, Oral Roberts.


  • Roberts authored a library's worth of books on spirituality and his personal faith, with such titles as Expect a New Miracle Every DayAttack Your Lack and When You See the Invisible, You Can Do the Impossible. Check out his many works on Amazon.

  • Roberts was a pioneer in preaching by mail.  He ran a direct-mail marketing campaign aimed at rural Americans and immigrants from other countries.

  • When Oral Roberts University first opened its doors in 1965, students were required to sign an honor code, pledging not to drink, smoke or have premarital relations.

  • Roberts and his wife were preceded in death by two of their children. Daughter Rebecca Nash, along with her husband, died in a plane crash on February 11, 1977.  Oldest son Ronald committed suicide on June 10, 1982, after receiving a court order to enroll in a drug treatment center and after coming out as gay.

  • After the City of Faith Medical and Research Center opened its doors, Roberts claimed that Jesus appeared to him in person commanding him to find a cure for cancer.

  • In 1987, cartoonist Berkeley Breathed poked fun of Roberts in his Bloom County comic strip, rebranding his iconic Bill the Cat character as "Fundamentally Oral Bill."

  • Comedian Sam Kinison is buried in the same cemetery as Roberts, just a short distance away.  Believe It Or Not!

  • This blogger met one of Roberts' nieces while visiting his grave.