Hey, Trekkies! It’s Captain Pike’s Birthday!

We are very fortunate that many of our guests are repeat customers, or have read about the hotel’s “theme” online, and will often ask, “Whose room am I in?” For those of you who have been with us before, you know that each room is dedicated to an actor or actress, many of whom have passed on into celluloid heaven, and whose brief window of fame has closed. When we say “Jeffrey Hunter,” the response is generally one of silence. But for many, when we explain that Hunter was in the original “Star Trek” pilot as Captain Christopher Pike, there is often a response of great excitement. Hunter’s character was the forerunner of Captain Kirk, in the person of William Shatner, who was hired to replace Hunter when he declined to continue the series. Just think, if Hunter had continued, we might not still be having to listen to Shatner more than 40 years later…

But back to today’s birthday boy, Jeffrey Hunter, whose solid acting talent and sigh-provoking good looks should have landed him a more permanent spot in film history. His face graced many a fan magazine article throughout the early 1950s, and his marriage to (and subsequent divorce from) popular ingenue Barbara Rush made him even more newsworthy. Sadly, his years as a contract player for 20th Century Fox (where he was often overshadowed by fellow contractee, Robert Wagner, who is oddly back in the tabloids this month) did little to cement his reputation. Aside from his singular “Star Trek” gig, his most remembered roles are as John Wayne’s stalwart second in the classic John Ford Western, “The Searchers,” and in the difficult role of Christ in “King of Kings,” where his youthful looks led some to dub the film, “I Was a Teenage Jesus.”

Most of Hunter’s film, both during his Fox contract years and after, were fairly routine (including “Brainstorm,” with another Chelsea Pines favorite, Anne Francis). Even his hoped-for breakout film, in a great performance as a real-life WWll hero in “No Man is an Island,” failed to ignite with audiences. After several failed TV series and an attempt to restart his career overseas in pseudo-Westerns and sword-and-sandal spectacles, as so many Hollywood actors were forced to do in the 1960s, Hunter suffered a stroke, a freak fall and a second stroke, and died at age 42.

With his combination of honest sincerity and all-American handsomeness, Jeffrey Hunter deserved a better fate. But we will continue to celebrate his star at Chelsea Pines Inn.

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