Helen Hunt worked as a hair stylist to the stars in Hollywood from the 1930’s through 1967. She served on the sets of Gilda (1946), Salome (1953), and the final film she worked on, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). Hunt was the chief hair stylist at Columbia Pictures. She worked most frequently with actress Rita Hayworth, starting when Hayworth was starting her career in Hollywood at just 18 years old.
Helen Hunt was working in Omaha, Nebraska as a stenographer at a costume company. There, she started caring for the company’s wigs, which had long been neglected. Hunt started washing and treating the wigs so as to keep them in usable conditions.
Hunt ended up being offered a job by George Westmore, a wig shop owner in Hollywood. In 1935, Hunt’s big break came when she worked, although not credited, on the film Party Wire starring Jean Arthur.
After Party Wire, Hunt began working on more Hollywood films. In 1944, Hunt worked as a hair stylist to a young, pre-celebrity status Rita Hayworth on the film Cover Girl. Soon, she began to work on more films, including 1947’s Dead Reckoning with Lauren Bacall and 1953’s From Here to Eternity starring Donna Reed and Deborah Kerr.
Hunt worked with Rita Hayworth again on several more films. Hunt and Hayworth again worked together in 1953 on the sets of Salome and Miss Sadie Thompson. In fact, it was Hunt who helped refine Hayworth’s luscious reddish (her natural color was black) hair style for the new technology of Technicolor films produced by Columbia. Hunt reportedly once went on record as saying that she had thought Hayworth to be “rather plain.”
For The Lady from Shanghai, Hunt was flown in from her honeymoon in New York to perform a dramatic cutting on Hayworth’s hair. This controversial cut had been requested by Orson Welles and was very reluctantly given the green light by Columbia Picture’s Harry Cohn. Hayworth was a precious commodity for the studio, but Hunt’s new style for one of her favorite clients was a huge success.
Hunt was also a favorite stylist to the likes of Judy Holliday, whom she worked with on Born Yesterday (1950) and The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956). She even cut the hair of the larger than life actress Marilyn Monroe.
In 1963, Hunt lent her expertise to assist another famous hair stylist, Virginia Darcy, in doing styles and coloring for actress Tippi Hedren on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller Marnie.
The last known (or at least credited) work that Helen Hunt did as a Hollywood hair stylist was in 1967 on the set of the film Look Who’s Coming to Dinner starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katherine Hepburn.