Henry Herman McKinnies, Jr. was born on November 25, 1926 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was an only child and soon the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he grew up. While still in high school, Henry acted on Milwaukee radio station WTMJ; which led to summer stock work and then to Chicago theater activity now using the name Jeffrey Hunter.
Hunter served in the U.S. Navy at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois 1945-1946. He then attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where he received a bachelor’s degree from the School of Speech. He continued his stage appearances and was featured in the 1949 film version of "Julius Caesar", which starred Charlton Heston.
Attending UCLA on a scholarship, Hunter was spotted by Hollywood talent scouts while appearing in a school production of "All My Sons" in May of 1950. He made a screen test at Paramount, but was hired by 20th Century Fox where he made his first "mainstream" film appearance in Fox's "Fourteen Hours", a film which also served as the debut for Grace Kelly.
Over the next two decades, Jeffrey Hunter would show his versatility as an actor by starring or co-starring in a wide variety of movies – dramas, comedies, westerns, science fiction and war films. He often played the handsome decent, wholesome suitor or husband in domestic contemporary dramas and comedies of the period. This included such films as "The Searchers" (1956) with John Wayne, "King of Kings" (1961) where he played a memorable Jesus Christ. When his Hollywood career slowed he went to Europe and appeared in several Italian and international co-productions including four Euro-westerns starting with "Murieta" 1965, "The Christmas Kid" (1966), "Custer of the West" (1967) and "Find a Place to Die" (1968).
In 1969, while filming "Viva America!" in Spain, Jeffrey Hunter was accidentally injured in an explosion on the set. Soon afterward he began complaining of dizziness and headaches. He was briefly hospitalized upon his return to Los Angeles. Shortly afterward, on May 27th, 1969, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while on a stairway in his home. He fell and struck his head. He died during surgery to repair the skull fracture. Jeffrey Hunter was 42 years of age. Today we remember Jeffrey Hunter on what would have been his 85th birthday.