Gayle Hunnicutt, an American actress who shed her Texas accent before building a three-decade career on the British stage and screen, playing glamorous femme fatales and costume-drama heroines while making headlines for her marriages to two very different men – the flamboyant actor David Hemmings and the cerebral journalist Simon Jenkins – died Aug. 31 at a hospital in London. She was 80.

Her death, from an unspecified illness, was confirmed by Jenkins, her former husband.

Hunnicutt, an auburn-haired Texan from Fort Worth, first gained notice for playing seductive women in 1960s sitcoms like “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Get Smart,” and for portraying a mob-connected television star in the 1969 film “Marlowe,” opposite James Garner. When she moved to London that year after her marriage to Hemmings, a British actor known for starring in Michelangelo Antonionio’s “Blow-Up,” she sought opportunities to demonstrate her range as an actress, beyond the sexpot roles she had been offered in Hollywood.

“In California I was going down the path of being built up on my looks. I feel I was very lucky to escape,” she told the Guardian in 1974.

Earlier that year, she had turned down an offer to play the female lead in a blockbuster screen adaptation of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” opposite Richard Chamberlain. In its place she took a low-paying part in a stage version of Émile Zola’s novel “Thérèse Raquin,” aiming to solidify her status as a serious actress. “The day I die,” she explained, “I do not wish to be remembered as a lady Texan starlet with a good face.”

For years, however, Hunnicutt was known to British viewers as the woman with “the most luminously beautiful face on television,” as Richard Last, a television critic for the Daily Telegraph, once put it. Casting directors sought her out for parts that showcased her statuesque figure, and she was reportedly in line to be the first Bond girl opposite Roger Moore, who was succeeding Sean Connery as 007 in “Live and Let Die” (1973). By one account, she turned down the role because she had recently given birth to her first son. (The part went to Jane Seymour instead.)

Hunnicutt could be alluring in one role, enigmatic in the next. She delivered acclaimed performances in BBC historical dramas, notably as the enigmatic Charlotte Stant, the ex-mistress of a nobleman, in a 1972 adaptation of Henry James’s “The Golden Bowl,” and as Tsarina Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas II of Russia, in the 1974 historical saga “Fall of Eagles.” She also performed frequently onstage, including as the title character in 1979 productions of “Peter Pan” and Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” and as authors Mary Shelley and Edith Wharton, whom she portrayed in plays that explored the intersection between each writer’s life and art.

Late in her career, Hunnicutt returned to the United States to appear on the last three seasons of “Dallas,” the hit prime-time soap opera that ended in 1991. She played an understated Englishwoman – Vanessa Beaumont, a former flame of J.R. Ewing who had secretly borne his child – rather than a native Texan like herself.

By then, she had made herself at home in Britain following a tumultuous first marriage to Hemmings. While he was an emblem of Swinging Sixties London, she was more demure, dismissive of sexual liberation and fond of the conservatism that she found in parts of her adopted country.

“No false fingernails, no false eyelashes, your hair can be mussed up,” she remarked. “You’d never get away with that in Fort Worth.”

An only child, Virginia Gayle Hunnicutt was born in Fort Worth on Feb. 6, 1943. Her father, an Army colonel, served in the South Pacific during World War II and later oversaw an Army Reserve school in Fort Worth. Her mother was a homemaker.

Hunnicutt studied theater arts at the University of California at Los Angeles, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1965. She was discovered by a talent scout while performing in a community theater production, and in 1966 she made her film debut with a supporting role in “The Wild Angels,” starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra.

Months later, she met Hemmings at a party at actor Peter Lawford’s home on Santa Monica beach. “It was instant combustion,” she recalled.

Hemmings was promoting “Blow-Up,” in which he played a suave fashion photographer who inadvertently photographs a murder. He would later describe Hunnicutt and him as “a poor man’s Taylor and Burton,” referring to the fraught relationship between actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton: “It was a Hollywood romance, but it wasn’t meant to last.”

The couple married in 1968, in a Beverly Hills wedding with singing by the Mamas and the Papas and an orchestra conducted by Henry Mancini. Not long after, Hunnicutt discovered that her husband was having an affair with Samantha Eggar, one of his co-stars.

“It nearly destroyed me,” she said, although the couple stayed together long enough for Hunnicutt to co-star with Hemmings in “Fragment of Fear” (1970) and to be directed by him in “Running Scared” (1972).

“He was the most charismatic human being I have ever met,” she told the Telegraph in 2004, the year after Hemmings’s death at 62. “He had an appetite for life that was quite irresistible. I was totally, utterly in love with him. I didn’t think I could breathe if he wasn’t there.”

They divorced in the mid-1970s, and a few years later she married Jenkins, who edited the London Evening Standard and later the Times of London. With him, she became a fixture of the London social scene, hosting parties at marquee buildings like St. James’s Palace and Battersea Power Station. “Simon is part of the establishment,” she said, “and as his wife, I am too.”

They divorced in 2009. Survivors include a son from her first marriage, actor Nolan Hemmings, who appeared in the World War II miniseries “Band of Brothers”; a son from her second marriage, Edward Jenkins; and five grandchildren.

Hunnicutt’s other credits included roles in the horror films “Eye of the Cat” (1969) and “The Legend of Hell House” (1973), as well as in the thriller “Target” (1985), with Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon. She also starred with Jeremy Brett in the 1980 premiere of ITV’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” as the cunning American singer and actress Irene Adler.

Away from the stage and screen, Hunnicutt wrote “Health and Beauty in Motherhood” (1984) and edited a selection of love letters, “Dearest Virginia” (2004), that her father had sent to her mother during World War II. She discovered the letters while cleaning out her family’s home in Fort Worth and said they offered solace, bringing her closer to her late father and revealing the depth of his commitment to her mother, while she recovered from a years-long illness following a hysterectomy.

“I came to understand my own set of values and code of living through reading them,” Hunnicutt said. “They are not necessarily the norm in the rather exotic, complex worlds I have been part of in my adult life.”

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