June Allyson

Active - 1943 - 2000  |   Born - Oct 7, 1917 in Bronx, New York, United States  |   Died - Jul 8, 2006   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Musical, Romance, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Though she despised the appellation "the girl next door," this was how June Allyson was promoted throughout most of her MGM career. The blonde, raspy-voiced actress was born in a tenement section of the Bronx. Her career nearly ended before it began when 8-year-old June seriously injured her back in a fall. For four years she wore a steel brace, then spent several more months in physical therapy. Thanks to the financial support of her grown half-brother, June was able to take dancing lessons. At 19, she made her film debut in the Vitaphone short Swing for Sale (1937). In her earliest movie appearances (notably the 1937 Educational Studios 2-reeler Dime a Dance) June projected a far more worldly, all-knowing image than she would convey in her later feature films. After co-starring in such Broadway productions as Sing Out the News, Very Warm for May and Panama Hattie and Best Foot Forward, June was signed to an MGM contract in 1942. The studio quickly began molding June's screen image of a freckled-faced, peaches-and-cream "best girl" and perfect wife. She was permitted to display some grit in The Girl in White (1952), playing New York City's first woman doctor, but most of her screen characters were quietly subordinate to the male leads. One of her favorite co-stars was James Stewart, with whom she appeared in The Stratton Story (1949) and The Glenn Miller Story (1954). In 1955, she completely broke away from her on-camera persona as the spiteful wife of Jose Ferrer in The Shrike (1955), a role for which she was personally selected by the demanding Ferrer. June was the wife of actor/ producer/ director Dick Powell, a union that lasted from 1945 until Powell's death in 1963, despite several well-publicized breakups. She starred in and hosted the 1960 TV anthology series The June Allyson Show, produced by Powell's Four Star Productions. After her film career ended, June made a handful of nightclub singing appearances; in 1972, she made a brief screen comeback in They Only Kill Their Masters, astonishing her fans by playing a murderess. In recent years, June Allyson has appeared in several TV commercials.

Movie Highlights

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  • Was severely injured as a child when a tree branch fell on her. Spent years in braces while recovering from a broken back and fractured skull.
  • Taught herself to dance by watching Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire movies.
  • Got her first big break when she performed in the Broadway musical Best Foot Forward. She reprised her role in the movie version and was then signed on to MGM as a contract player.
  • Known for her "good girl" image, but played against type in They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), in which her character is a homicidal lesbian.
  • Originally turned down the offer to be a spokesperson for Depends Undergarments because she found it to be an unattractive subject.