Arthur “Arkansas” Hunnicutt: Started Out in Medicine Shows

Arkansas native Arthur Hunnicutt (1910-79) traveled for years with medicine shows and stock companies before making it to Broadway in Love’s Old Sweet Song (1940) by William Saroyan, one of eight Broadway appearances he would make over the next half-dozen years. Hunnicutt’s rustic appearance and personality assured typecasting from the beginning. He went on as a replacement in the role of Kit Carson in the original production of The Time of Your Life, and toured with Tobacco Road in the part of Jeeter.

Hunnicutt’s screen career, which began in 1942, consists almost entirely of westerns, in which he specialized as grizzled sidekicks (often named “Arkansas” and riding alongside Charles Starrett) and other supporting parts. His best known movies include Broken Arrow (1950), The Furies (1950), The Red Badge of Courage (1952), The Big Sky (1952, he was nominated for an Oscar), The Tall T (1957), Cat Ballou (1965), El Dorado (1967) and Harry and Tonto (1974). He also worked extensively in television on shows like Bonanza, The Virginian, The Rifleman, Laramie, The Twilight Zone, and The Magical World of Disney (notably on The Swamp Fox, with Leslie Nielsen). His last screen appearance was in the western Winterhawk (1975) with Leif Erickson, Woody Strode, Denver Pyle, L.Q. Jones, Elisha Cook Jr, Dawn Wells. and Sacheen Littlefeather.

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To learn more about entertainment history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.