Perky Actress June Allyson, 88

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

June Allyson, 88, the Bronx-born MGM star who sparkled in musicals as a singer and dancer and won admiration in dramas as the loving and supportive spouse, died July 8 in California.

Her death was announced yesterday by a daughter.

Miss Allyson's perky on-screen charm and her effervescent ability to brush aside bad news helped make her one of the best-known Hollywood actresses of the 1940s and 1950s and gave her big-league box-office appeal.

She had been ill for some time and died at her home in Ojai of pulmonary respiratory failure and acute bronchitis, according to the Associated Press.

Among the male stars to whom she served as redoubtable helpmate were William Holden, in "Executive Suite," and Jimmy Stewart, who played a disabled baseball pitcher in "The Stratton Story," an aviator in "Strategic Air Command" and the bandleader in "The Glenn Miller Story."

In addition to making more than 40 movies, Miss Allyson was one of the first of the prominent movie actresses to appear regularly on television, and she showed up on the small screen into the 1990s.

In addition, the openness and sincerity that characterized her work was put to use in her later years as a spokeswoman for products used to mitigate the effects of incontinence.

Among movie audiences of her day, and particularly among GIs during World War II, Miss Allyson was said to be the star who most embodied the attractions of the girl next door. More than any of her fellow actresses, she was described as the one whom men in far places dreamed of coming home to.

In an interview, she told of feeling uneasy about the image that Hollywood created for her.

"I never did feel quite right about the roles I was called upon to portray," she once said. "The gentle, kind, loving, perfect wife who will stand by her man through 'anything.' "

She confessed that "in real life, I'm a poor dressmaker and a terrible cook. In fact, anything but the perfect wife."

Though many of her actress colleagues of the war years and the postwar period might have seemed more dazzling and glamorous, Miss Allyson was viewed as the winsome girl with a winning smile who could be taken home to meet the family.

For a number of years, the throaty-voiced, wide-eyed actress was voted the No. 1 female box-office attraction by theater owners. In 1954, she was voted Photoplay Magazine's most popular female star. She also won a Golden Globe Award for best movie musical/comedy actress in 1952 for "Too Young to Kiss."

Jimmy Stewart was a friend of years' standing; Miss Allyson was also close to fellow musical star Judy Garland. Miss Allyson was married to actor and director Dick Powell from 1945 until his death in 1963 and had appeared both with him and in his productions.

Miss Allyson was born Oct. 7, 1917, six months after the United States entered World War I. After her father left the family, she was raised in impoverished circumstances by her mother. She began dancing to aid in her recovery from a childhood accident that caused numerous fractures. According to at least one account, she was fascinated by the musical stars of the 1930s and expressed the conviction that she might equal them. Her friends issued a dare, which led her to a Broadway audition.

She got a part in a chorus line. Her first show tanked. But other parts followed, and when it was decided to make a film of one of her shows, Miss Allyson went west with "Best Foot Forward," taking the role of Minerva in the 1943 film. In the next year, she was one of the stars of "Two Girls and a Sailor," a big MGM musical. Such films as "Music for Millions," "The Sailor Takes a Wife," "Good News," "Till the Clouds Roll By" and "Words and Music" followed in quick succession. She also appeared in 1948's "The Three Musketeers" and in 1949's "Little Women," as Jo March.

She and Powell had two children. After his death, she twice married and twice divorced Glenn Maxwell. In 1976, she married David Ashrow.

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