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June Allyson (1917-2006)


June Allyson
June Allyson


June Allyson was one of the top Hollywood stars of the 1950's and continued to be an important movie and television actress for many years after. She had a throaty, instantly recognisable voice and a natural and appealing 'girl next door' charm. In 1951 she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her performance in 'Too Young to Kiss'.

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June Allyson was born Eleanor Geisman in the Bronx, New York City on October 7, 1917 and brought up in near poverty by her mother after her father, who was an alcoholic, abandoned the family when she was 6 months old. She had a brother, Henry, who was two years older than her and who became a doctor.

She was injured in a cycling accident when she was eight, and told by doctors that she would not walk again. She spent the next four years wearing a steel brace, and regained her health with a regimen of swimming and dancing. She taught herself to dance by continually watching movies of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. She started to enter dance competitions in her teens, and whilst still at school she began to appear in musical film shorts, such as 'Dime a Dance' in 1937, first with Educational Pictures and when they folded she moved to Vitaphone until that studio discontinued production in New York in 1940.

Broadway 1938

She successfully auditioned for the 1938 Broadway musical 'Sing Out the News' and also appeared the following year in 'Very Warm for May,' a musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. In 1940 she appeared in another musical, 'Higher and Higher' and later in that year she got her break when she understudied Betty Hutton in 'Panama Hattie'. When Hutton contracted the measles, June replaced her. She was seen by producer-director George Abbott who cast her in his next project, 'Best Foot Forward' in 1941. After two years, when that musical was bought by MGM, as a vehicle for Lucille Ball, June went with it to Hollywood.

Hollywood 1943

June made her feature film debut in 'Best Foot Forward' in 1943. After appearing as a peppy, good-humored ornament in the likes of 'Two Girls and a Sailor' in 1944 and 'Good News' in 1947, she rose to leading roles, most happily cast as Jo March in 'Little Women' in 1949. She was extremely good at being able to cry real tears on demand, and she and Margaret O'Brien, who was equally adept, became known as 'the town criers'.

After playing the wife of James Stewart's baseball player in the biopic 'The Stratton Story' in 1949, she became typecast as the perfect 1950's wife - a military or sports widow - standing by her husband in two more biopics, Stewart again in 'The Glenn Miller Story' in 1953 and Alan Ladd in 'The McConnell story' in 1955.

Allyson's throaty, sexy voice was slightly at odds with her starched blonde looks, which served her well in melodramas such as 'Woman's World' in 1954 and comedies such as 'My Man Godfrey' in 1957.

She was a major Hollywood star during the 1950's and in 1955 she was voted second-most-popular female star, behind Grace Kelly. The following year she starred with the up-and-coming young star, Jack Lemmon in a musical comedy, 'You Can't Run Away From It'.

TV Star 1959

In 1959, June became one of the first movie stars to have her own regular television show, 'The Dupont Show with June Allyson.' The show was a weekly drama series hosted by and occasionally starring June and was produced by her husband, Dick Powell. The show was very successful and ran for 57 episodes in total.

In later years Allyson performed extensively on TV, firstly with her husband in 'The Dick Powell Show' from 1961-63, and then did guest spots on the likes of 'The Incredible Hulk' in 1979. She also became well known on television for her commercials for Depend & Poise products. Also in the 1970's she returned to the stage in the musical-comedy, 'Forty Carats' on Broadway and then touring for one year with 'No, No Nanette' in 1971.

Her most distinctive late career film role found her trashing her good-gal image by playing a psycho lesbian murderess in 'They Only Kill Their Masters' in 1972.

Personal

June married actor and director Dick Powell in August 1945. He was 13 years her senior and had been previously married to Mildred Maund and Joan Blondell. They adopted a daughter, Pamela, in 1948 and their own son, Richard, was born in 1950. After a brief separation in 1955 when she fell in love with actor Alan Ladd during filming of 'The McConnell Story', the couple reconciled and remained married until Powell's death in January, 1963.

After this June struggled, successfully, against alcoholism and effectively retired from the screen. Powell had been a rich man and she was left very well off after his death and had no need to work.

Her second husband, Glenn Maxwell, was Dick Powell's former barber. Her last husband, David Ashrow, to whom she was married from 1976 until her death, was a retired dentist turned actor.

After a long illness June Allyson died of pulmonary respiratory failure and acute bronchitis at her home in Ojai, California on July 8, 2006, aged 88.


June Allyson Academy Awards

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June Allyson Filmography

1940
1941
1942
1943
Best Foot Forward
Girl Crazy
Thousands Cheer
1944
Meet the People
Music for Millions
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Two Girls and a Sailor
1945
Her Highness and the Bellboy
1946
The Sailor Takes a Wife
The Secret Heart
Till the Clouds Roll By
Two Sisters from Boston
1947
Good News
The High Barbaree
1948
The Bride Goes Wild
The Three Musketeers
Words and Music
1949
Little Women
The Stratton Story
1950
Right Cross
The Reformer and the Redhead
1951
Too Young to Kiss
1952
The Girl in White
1953
Battle Circus
Remains to Be Seen
1954
A Woman's World
Executive Suite
The Glenn Miller Story