Wednesday, May 07, 2014

TCM Star of the Month: June Allyson

The May Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies is June Allyson.

The salute kicks off this evening, May 7th, with THE GLENN MILLER STORY (1954), costarring James Stewart and directed by Anthony Mann. As I wrote in my 2012 tribute to Allyson, THE GLENN MILLER STORY is one of those special films I first saw at an early age, then rewatched many times. I consider it one of a couple dozen or so key films which helped me fall in love with classic films from an early point in my childhood.

Next up is THE STRATTON STORY (1949), a baseball film with James Stewart which, amazingly, I've not yet seen. I even own the DVD! Needless to say I need to catch up with that one. It's the earliest of her three films with Stewart.

THE SECRET HEART (1946) is an enjoyable psychological melodrama. Allyson plays a young girl fixated on her late father, who resents her stepmother (Claudette Colbert) falling in love with a new man (Walter Pidgeon). Allyson so admired Colbert that she asked her to be the godmother to her daughter, Pamela. There's a little more on that in my 2011 tribute to Colbert.

Also on tonight's schedule is THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948), in which Allyson is exquisitely lovely as Constance, though I'm afraid the ending of the classic Dumas story left me a bit traumatized as a child!

RIGHT CROSS (1950) is an interesting film about boxing -- and, tangentially, race relations -- costarring Ricardo Montalban and Allyson's husband, Dick Powell.

Tonight there's also the lightweight romantic comedy THE SAILOR TAKES A WIFE (1945), with Robert Walker and Audrey Totter, and the tribute wraps up early on Thursday with Allyson's guest starring roles singing numbers in GIRL CRAZY (1943) and WORDS AND MUSIC (1948).

On May 14th the evening begins with MGM's LITTLE WOMEN (1949). It may not be the best version of the Alcott classic, but the wonderful cast and candybox Technicolor made it another film which made a big impression on me as a child, and I continue to love it today. Allyson stars as Jo, with Janet Leigh, Margaret O'Brien, and Elizabeth Taylor as Meg, Beth, and Amy. Frequent Allyson costar Peter Lawford stars as Laurie.

That's followed by THE MCCONNELL STORY (1956) with Alan Ladd and MEET THE PEOPLE (1944) with Dick Powell, both of which I need to see! I have the Warner Archive release of THE MCCONNELL STORY. Off the screen the film led to a brief affair between Allyson and costar Alan Ladd, after which they each returned to their respective spouses.

THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD (1950) is another film with Dick Powell. Also on the schedule on the 14th: THE GIRL IN WHITE (1952) with Gary Merrill and Arthur Kennedy and the fondly recalled HER HIGHNESS AND THE BELLBOY (1945) with Robert Walker and Hedy Lamarr, followed by another guest singing role in TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (1946).

May 21st begins with one of our family's very favorite Allyson films, TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR (1944). This is the film in which Dick Powell advised her to ask to play the less attractive sister, correctly calculating it would make Allyson a star. Gloria DeHaven plays her beautiful sister, with Van Johnson and Tom Drake as their romantic interests.

Allyson's first MGM musical, BEST FOOT FORWARD (1943), in which she recreated her Broadway role, is followed by one of her very best films, GOOD NEWS (1947). This lively and colorful musical was directed by Charles Walters and costars an energetic cast including Peter Lawford, Joan McCracken, and Mel Torme. "Pass That Peace Pipe" by Martin, Blane, and Edens was nominated for Best Song; it provides McCracken with one of my all-time favorite MGM musical dance numbers. GOOD NEWS is must viewing for Allyson fans!

Three films with Van Johnson are next: TOO YOUNG TO KISS (1951), THE BRIDE GOES WILD (1948), and HIGH BARBAREE (1947), followed by one more guest singing role in THOUSANDS CHEER (1943).

The final night of the series, May 28th, starts with the remake of MY MAN GODFREY (1957) with David Niven, followed by THE OPPOSITE SEX (1956), a remake of THE WOMEN (1939). Allyson's remake of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1944), titled YOU CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM IT (1957), is not being shown.

MUSIC FOR MILLIONS (1944) is an MGM film with a wonderful cast including Margaret O'Brien and Marsha Hunt. That's followed by BATTLE CIRCUS (1953), a Korean War film with Humphrey Bogart, and then THEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS (1972), EXECUTIVE SUITE (1954), and finally the delightful TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON (1946) with Kathryn Grayson and Peter Lawford.

There aren't many Allyson films missing from this month's schedule. The most significant omission may be the last of her three films with James Stewart, STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955), a film which has its detractors but I really enjoyed. THE SHRIKE (1955), in which she was cast against type as a harridan, is also missing, as it the Fox film WOMAN'S WORLD (1954). For the most part, though, TCM is putting on a wonderfully thorough Allyson festival!

For more on TCM this month, please visit my post TCM in May: Highlights, along with the complete schedule.


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

The most disheartening omission is THE SHRIKE. Once again, as when she was last Star of the Month, TCM felt they could do her justice without showing this film, in which she was superb, giving new meaning to the phrase "cast against type" by turning the June Allyson persona on its head.

This is twice they've done it and it seems to me they could have easily licensed it. The film is too little seen. Though I love TCM programming overall, sometimes I don't think they get it together quite a swell as they might on Star of the Month tributes. On smaller, concentrated tributes, they often do well, though.

I don't like to complain about TCM, being one of those people who would not want to exist in a world without it.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake! THE SHRIKE is a film I've long been curious about. I've seen so many of Allyson's feature films but that's on my "never seen it" list.

I hadn't realized June Allyson had previously been Star of the Month, but I have a list of the first few years saved from the TCM boards and sure enough, just as you say, she was the SOTM in June 1997.

It would be interesting to know the ins and outs of licensing. There are some other SOTM lineups I've wished had included some key titles -- though, like you, I am reluctant to criticize TCM too much, given all the wonderful things the channel does!

Thanks for commenting on THE SHRIKE. One of these days I'll catch up with it!

Best wishes,

3:46 PM  
Blogger prttynpnk said...

Yay! My timing reading this was perfect- the DVR has much work tonight! Thanks for the guide- I love some June!

5:34 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older