Today, February 17, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia remember marvelous character actor Arthur Hunnicutt on the anniversary of his birth in 1910.
Hunnicutt plays backwoods husband Hyder Simpson in "The Hunt," a man with a devoted wife (Jeanette Nolan) and a faithful hound dog named Rip. When Rip goes into the river one night, Hyder dives in after him. In the morning, they seem to be in one piece until they discover a funeral procession – Hyder's.
When westerns were in vogue on the big and small screens, there seemed to be a whole generation of western character actors who were instantly recognizable and very talented. Just the way they talked took you right back to frontier America. Hunnicutt (1910-1979) was pure country – a native of Gravelly, Arkansas -- who killed it on screen. His Davy Crockett in director Frank Lloyd's The Last Command is the opposite pole from John Wayne's Crockett in The Alamo. But he's also a formidable marksman, a crafty fighter in hand-to-hand combat, and an inspired leader to his men.
At the end of the movie, Sterling Hayden's bedridden Jim Bowie character makes one final request of his friend: "Let them know it's Crockett they're fighting," to which Hunnicutt responds, "They'll eat snakes before they get in here, Jim." We miss actors like that and the believability they brought to their western characters.
So let us remember a titan in buckskin who took a hound dog named Rip into the woods and found himself walking right down a well-trodden path of The Twilight Zone.