Ross Hunter

Active - 1944 - 1978  |   Born - May 6, 1920   |   Died - Mar 10, 1996   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Musical, Adventure

Share on

Biography by Hal Erickson

Upon his graduation from Western Reserve University, American producer Ross Hunter was content to settle into a school teaching career. But his Glenn Ford-like good looks weren't easily ignored; he was offered a contract with Columbia pictures in 1944. Hunter appeared prominently but not memorably in such B musicals as Louisiana Hayride (1944), Ever Since Venus (1945) and The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi (1946). When the contract ended, Hunter's career stalled, and he went back to teaching temporarily. He re-entered movies on the production end, attaining a staff producer post at Universal in 1953 on the strength of his previous credits as a theatrical producer and director. With 1954's Magnificent Obsession, Hunter hit upon the winning formula that would sustain him for the next two years: beautiful stars (male and female), beautiful costumes, beautiful sets, beautiful music, and an abundance of reliable story elements ranging from old-fashioned tear-wringing to tickle 'n' tease sexual humor. Under Hunter's auspices, Rock Hudson became a major name; Lana Turner's flagging career received a coiffed and permed boost; and Doris Day was reinvented as America's most popular middle-aged virgin. While many of Hunter's productions were screen originals (Pillow Talk [1959], Portrait in Black [1960], and That Touch of Mink [1962]), the producer also displayed an absolute genius for attractively updating old warhorses like Imitation of Life (1959), Back Street (1961), and Madame X (1965). He also knew how to make the cash registers ring with screen adaptations of stage hits like Flower Drum Song (1961) and The Chalk Garden (1964), even if these overproduced properties lost a lot of their charm along the way. After closing out his Universal career with the blockbuster Airport (1970), Hunter moved to Columbia, where his 1973 musical remake of Lost Horizon all but ruined the studio, earning the unflattering nickname "Lost Investments." While his foolproof formula had finally been proven foolish, Hunter moved on to TV, where he continued for several years to turn out high-gloss, big-star TV movies and pilot films.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography