Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Birthday Tribute to June Allyson

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.

October 2019 Update: My ClassicFlix post has now been adapted and posted here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, including links to several of my past Allyson film reviews.

October 2020 Update: Here's a review of THE OPPOSITE SEX (1956).


Blogger Karen said...

Saw 2 Girls & Sailor for 1st time this year and fell hard for it! June is adorable and OMG, the cast of soliders!!! What's a girl to do? The costumes, the cast, the script...all top notch. Thanks for shining the spotlight on one of my favorite "girls next door", Laura! Well done!

2:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi, Kay! So glad you enjoyed TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR too. Isn't Tom Drake the cutest thing ever in that one? :) Add in Harry James and Cugie, much fun!

Thanks so much for the kind words, happy to hear from another June Allyson fan!

Best wishes,

3:10 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Please do seek out THE SHRIKE, Laura. It won't change anything that you feel about her, but simply show that she had more range as an actress than people thought and could turn her image on its head. This is something I talked about with regard to some other actors in a few recent comments here to other pieces of yours.

But I agree that GOOD NEWS is probably my favorite of her movies too, especially for June herself; she could not be more adorable than in that one. But how could you mention four songs and not "The Best Things in Life are Free" which is best of all?

4:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're right, Blake, "The Best Things in Life Are Free" is wonderful, and beautifully sung by June. :) So glad to know you're also a fan of that movie. It's a great example of '40s MGM at its best.

Thanks for the tip on THE SHRIKE, that's one I've not yet caught up with.

Best wishes,

7:10 PM  
Blogger DorianTB said...

Laura, though I'm a day late with the news of June Allyson's birthday, I'll nevertheless pass it on to my buddy Michael Wolff of, as he's a huge fan of hers! And I'm a fan of Ms. Allyson's late hubby Dick Powell, so it's all good! :-) Loved your post!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for sharing it with a fellow June Allyson fan, Dorian, I appreciate it!

Love Dick Powell too. :) :)

Best wishes,

12:50 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

June always so watchable . In THE OPPOSITE SEX, June steps into Norma Shearer's shoes, but this remake of THE WOMEN has a couple of great songs - June reprises"Young Man With a Horn" with Harry James, and "Now ,Baby,Now" .
My favorite has to be THE GLENN MILLER STORY. .
Never felt June and Humphrey Bogart in BATTLE CIRCUS were well cast.
Funny June should be in so many remakes - also YOU CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM IT ( My Man Godfrey) and of course LITTLE WOMEN.
She was so well cast opposite of Alan Ladd or Jimmy Stewart or Cornel Wilde or William Holden. Always the perfect wife, warm and loving.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

"Always the perfect wife, warm and loving."

Yes, that describes her well.

Almost always. But you all need to see THE SHRIKE--too bad it's kind of off the radar now but it will be around sometime. Even thinking about the fact this film exists gives this June Allyson fan pleasure.

I assume I don't need to say who plays the title role.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Vienna and Blake! That's a good point, Vienna, June did end up doing several remakes!

THE MCCONNELL STORY with Alan Ladd is one of several June Allyson films on my shelf I need to catch up with. I've also somehow made it this far without seeing THE STRATTON STORY, her first film with James Stewart. Looking forward to it! And someday Blake's recommendation of THE SHRIKE...don't think I've run across that one on TCM or DVD, will be watching for it.

Best wishes,

3:42 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

AMC showed THE SHRIKE back in its good days. If Universal MOD series has taken off, hopefully they'll get to it.

THE GLENN MILLER STORY has of course been out there for a long time, but if they want to do an Allyson set of four, they could include the others with THE SHRIKE
--MY MAN GODFREY remake (I don't remember this but surely can't compete with the original), very good Douglas Sirk melodrama INTERLUDE with Rosanno Brazzi(not the greatest of all Sirk but has its share of beauties), and immensely interesting 50s closing melodrama STRANGER IN MY ARMS in which June co-stars with Jeff Chandler. But in this case, I'd like to see director Helmut Kautner's other Ross Hunter-produced black and white melodrama even more, THE RESTLESS YEARS with Sandra Dee and John Saxon--a very sensitive and beautiful movie.

Wishing and hoping...

11:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the additional thoughts, Blake. A June Allyson-Jeff Chandler movie sounds appealing to me!

My daughter the Allyson fan watched the GODFREY remake and found it disappointing, though she thought David Niven well cast.

I'm actually reminded now that the MY MAN GODFREY remake was called just that, while YOU CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM IT remade IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. (Daughter didn't like that one very much either...) June did even more remakes than we realized!

I hope THE SHRIKE comes out from Universal Vault. As a side note, I seem to recall that the Self-Styled Siren, who is not an Allyson fan, nonetheless thought she was good in it and that it was an interesting movie.

Best wishes,

11:40 PM  

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