John Tunney, ex-US senator from California, dies at 83
LOS ANGELES (AP) — John V. Tunney, whose successful campaign for a California seat in the U.S. Senate became the basis for the 1972 Robert Redford film "The Candidate," has died. He was 83.
Tunney died this afternoon in Santa Monica, Calif., his brother, Jay Tunney, told The Associated Press. John Tunney had been suffering from prostate cancer and died in a temporary home that family members were converting into a hospice for him, his brother said.
Tunney was among the youngest people elected to the U.S. Senate in the past century when he won his seat in 1970 at age 36. He then became one of the youngest in recent history to lose a Senate seat when he was defeated after just one term.
The charismatic young Democrat, who was often compared to the Kennedy brothers, had to quiet some of his idealism and swing to the center to beat the 68-year-old Republican incumbent George Murphy in 1970.
Director Michael Ritchie worked on Tunney's campaign, and the story of competing generations and the machinations of elections was perfect fodder for the political-minded Hollywood of the day.
Redford took on the role of Bill McKay, based on Tunney. The film was a commercial and critical success, winning an Academy Award for screenwriter Jeremy Larner.
Tunney was born in New York the son of Connecticut socialite Polly Lauder Tunney and boxer Gene Tunney, the 1920s heavyweight champion whose two victories over Jack Dempsey were among the most renowned fights of the 20th century.
Gene Tunney was insistent that his sons pursue professions other than boxing.