June Allyson, a unique and charming MGM star of the '40s and '50s, was born on this date in 1917.
June Allyson is one of the reasons I fell in love with classic films, and in fact she made my list of 20 Favorite Actresses a few years back. Her MGM films ran on TV constantly when I was young, shown on KTTV Ch. 11 -- a station which happens to have been mentioned by me in another context earlier today.
When I was around age 10 or 11 I began keeping a chronological list of every film I've ever seen, which I continue to maintain today. The first part of the list, reconstructed by memory, consisted of the films I'd previously seen in my lifetime, and THE GLENN MILLER STORY (1954) is near the very top of the list.
My friend Mel happened to mention a memory of THE GLENN MILLER STORY in a comment last night. It's one of those films which made an indelible impression on many of us, myself included, and I fell in love with not only June but Jimmy Stewart, Harry Morgan, and the music of Glenn Miller. I've seen it countless times, and I still love everything about it, including "Little Brown Jug" and all the other great music.
June Allyson was married to one of my all-time favorite actors, Dick Powell. Prior to their marriage he played a significant role in her career success by famously advising her to ask Louis B. Mayer to recast her from the "pretty" to the "plain" sister in TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR (1944). The role capitalized on her husky-voiced girl-next-door charm, with the result that she became a huge star.
My younger daughter inherited my love for June and has watched TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR countless times; she was so happy when it came out from the Warner Archive! It's a charmer, the first of several pairings of June with Van Johnson, and like THE GLENN MILLER STORY it also has great big band music.
June appeared in a handful of films with Dick Powell, starting with MEET THE PEOPLE (1944) and later RIGHT CROSS (1950) and THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD (1950). When it comes to movies, however, she's most often thought of teamed with Van Johnson or as the wife of James Stewart, first in THE STRATTON STORY (1949), later in THE GLENN MILLER STORY, and finally in STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955).
My favorite June Allyson movie is probably GOOD NEWS (1947), an underrated, colorful, and completely engaging musical in which she was teamed with Peter Lawford. Spending 93 minutes with them at Tait College is movie musical bliss, especially when it comes to great numbers like "Lucky in Love," "The French Lesson," "The Varsity Drag," or Joan McCracken's awesome "Pass That Peace Pipe."
June was also paired with Peter Lawford in LITTLE WOMEN (1949). It perhaps isn't the best version of LITTLE WOMEN -- I'd give that nod to the 1933 Hepburn telling -- but it's the first one I ever saw, and the wonderful cast and candybox color again made a big impression on me as a young girl. As a matter of fact, as a teenager I had a framed movie still of the cast hanging on my bedroom wall.
June Allyson passed away in Ojai, California, in 2006, at the age of 88.
Though I've seen a significant number of June Allyson's films, not many of them have been reviewed here, which I hope to rectify in the future. There are also several of her films I still need to see for the first time, including, curiously, most of her movies with Van Johnson.
June Allyson films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: THE SAILOR TAKES A WIFE (1945), THE SECRET HEART (1946), RIGHT CROSS (1950), THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD (1950), EXECUTIVE SUITE (1954), WOMAN'S WORLD (1954), and STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955).
January 2017 Update: I wrote a tribute to June Allyson which is now posted at ClassicFlix.