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June Allyson 1917-2006
 


Country : Bronx, NY
Profession : Actor
Date of birth : 1917-10-07
Date of death : 2006-07-08
Cause of Death : Respiratory failure

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June Allyson (October 7, 1917 – July 8, 2006) was an American film and television actress, popular in the 1940s and 1950s. She was a major MGM contract star. Allyson won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her performance in Too Young to Kiss (1951). From 1959-1961, she hosted and occasionally starred in her own CBS anthology series, The DuPont Show with June Allyson.

Early life

Allyson was born Eleanor (Ella) Geisman in the Bronx, New York City. Her parents were Clara Provost and Robert Geisman. Her paternal grandparents, Harry Geisman and Anna Hafner, were immigrants from Germany, although Allyson has claimed that her last name was originally "Van Geisman", and was of Dutch origin.

In 1918, when June was only six months old, her alcoholic father, who had worked as a janitor, abandoned the family. To make ends meet, her mother worked as a telephone operator and restaurant cashier. Allyson was brought up in near poverty.

In 1925, when she was eight, a dead tree branch fell on her while she was bicycling. Several bones were broken, and doctors said she would never walk again. She underwent months of swimming exercises, however, and ultimately regained her health.

Career

After graduating from a wheelchair to crutches to braces, she was inspired to dance by obsessively watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies. In 1938, fully recovered, she tried out for a chorus job in the Broadway show "Sing out the News". The choreographer gave her a job and a new name: Allyson, a family name, and June, for the month.

Like other musical performers in New York, the 5'1" (1.55 m) Allyson found work in movie short subjects that were filmed there. Her first opportunity came from Educational Pictures at its Astoria, Long Island studio. Educational cast her as an ingenue opposite singer Lee Sullivan, comic dancers Herman Timberg, Jr. and Pat Rooney, Jr., and future comedy star Danny Kaye. When Educational ceased operations, Allyson moved over to Vitaphone in Brooklyn, and starred or co-starred (with dancer Hal LeRoy) in musical shorts until that studio discontinued New York production in 1940.

Allyson returned to the New York stage. After her appearance in Best Foot Forward in 1941, she was selected for the 1943 film version, and followed it up with several other musicals, including Two Sisters from Boston (1946) and Good News (1947). She also played straight roles such as Constance in The Three Musketeers (1948), the tomboy Jo March in Little Women (1949), and a nurse in Battle Circus (1953). June was very adept at opening the waterworks on cue, and many of her films incorporated a crying scene. Fellow MGM player Margaret O'Brien recalled that she and Allyson were known as "the town criers".

In 1950, June Allyson had been signed to appear opposite Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding, but had to leave the production due to pregnancy. (She was replaced initially by Judy Garland, and later Jane Powell.)

James Stewart was a frequent co-star, teaming up with Allyson in films such as The Glenn Miller Story, The Stratton Story, and Strategic Air Command.

Allyson was an extremely active star in the 1940s and 1950s. She won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the comedy Too Young To Kiss in 1951.

In 1955, Allyson was named the ninth most popular movie star in the annual Quigley Exhibitors Poll and the second most popular female star (behind Grace Kelly). She starred in 1956 with a young rising star named Jack Lemmon in a musical comedy, You Can't Run Away From It.

In later years, Allyson appeared on television, not only in her own series, but in such popular programs as The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.

Personal life

On August 19, 1945, Allyson caused Hollywood studio chiefs some consternation by marrying Dick Powell, who was thirteen years her senior and had been previously married to Mildred Maund and Joan Blondell. They had two children, Pamela Allyson Powell (adopted in 1948 through the Tennessee Children's Home Society in an adoption arranged by Georgia Tann) and Richard Powell, Jr. (born December 24, 1950). The couple briefly separated in 1961, but reconciled and remained married until his death on January 2, 1963, which led to Allyson's effective retirement from the screen.

Following Powell's death, Allyson went though a bitter court battle with her mother over custody of her children, Ricky and Pamela. Reports at the time revealed that writer/director Dirk Summers, with whom Allyson was romantically involved from 1963 to 1975, was named legal guardian for Ricky and Pamela as a result of a court petition. Members of the nascent jet-set, Allyson and Summers were frequently seen in Cap d'Antibes, Madrid, Rome, and London. However, Summers refused to marry her and the relationship did not last. Allyson twice married and divorced Powell's barber, Alfred Glenn Maxwell, who she claimed physically abused her. During this time, Allyson struggled with alcoholism, which she overcame in the mid-seventies. She was married to David Ashrow, a dentist turned actor, from 1976 until her death. The couple occasionally performed together in regional theater.

Allyson returned to the Broadway stage in 1970 in the play Forty Carats and later toured in a production of No, No Nanette.

Dick Powell had been a major television player with his own production company, Four Star, owning several network shows. When he died, Allyson was left very well off and didn't need to work. She occasionally made appearances on talk and variety shows.

After Dick Powell developed kidney problems and died of cancer, June Allyson committed herself to charitable work on his behalf. She championed the importance of research in urological and gynecological diseases in seniors, and represented the Kimberly-Clark Corporation in commercials for Depend adult incontinence products. In 1993, her name made headlines again when actor-turned-agent Marty Ingels publicly charged Allyson with not paying his large commission on the Depend deal. Allyson denied owing any money, and she and husband David Ashrow filed a lawsuit for slander and emotional distress, charging that Ingels was harassing and threatening them, stating Ingels made 138 phone calls during a single eight-hour period. Earlier that year, Ingels had pleaded no contest to making annoying phone calls.

Allyson made a special appearance in 1994 in That's Entertainment III, as one of the film's narrators. She spoke about MGM's golden era, and introduced vintage film clips.

Allyson had been in failing health since undergoing a hip-replacement surgery, and died at the age of eighty-eight at her home in Ojai, California. Her death was a result of pulmonary respiratory failure and acute bronchitis. Her husband of nearly 30 years, David Ashrow, was at her side.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, June Allyson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1537 Vine Street.

Filmography

Features

  • Too Young to Kiss (1951)
  • The Girl in White (1952)
  • Battle Circus (1953)
  • Remains to Be Seen (1953)
  • The Glenn Miller Story (1953)
  • Executive Suite (1954)
  • Woman's World (1954)
  • Strategic Air Command (1955)
  • The Shrike (1955)
  • The McConnell Story (1955)
  • The Opposite Sex (1956)
  • You Can't Run Away from It (1956)
  • Interlude (1957)
  • My Man Godfrey (1957)
  • A Stranger in My Arms (1959)
  • They Only Kill Their Masters (1972)
  • Blackout (1978)
  • That's Entertainment! III (1994)
  • A Girl, Three Guys, and a Gun (2001)

Short subjects

  • Ups and Downs (1937)
  • Pixilated (1937)
  • Swing for Sale (1937)
  • Dime a Dance (1937)
  • Dates and Nuts (1937)
  • Not Now (1938)
  • Sing for Sweetie (1938)
  • The Prisoner of Swing (1938)
  • The Knight Is Young (1938)
  • All Girl Revue (1940)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood, City of Stars (1956)

 

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