Thursday, February 11, 2010

June Allyson (1917-2006)


Actress. Born Ella Geisman in the Bronx, New York to Clara and Robert Geisman. She was injured in an accident at age eight and spent four years confined within a steel brace. Swimming therapy slowly gave her mobility again, and she began to study dance as well. She entered dance contests after high school and earned roles in numerous musical films called "Broadway Brevities", the Vitaphone short subjects. In 1938, she made her Broadway debut in the musical "Sing Out the News," a Rodgers and Hart musical. In 1940, she worked the chorus of the Ethel Merman musical "Panama Hattie" with up and coming actresses Betsy Blair, Lucille Bremer, Constance Dowling, and Vera Ellen. June was elevated to understudy of Betty Hutton, who was enable to perform due to illness. Junes performance impressed producer George Abbott, who gave her a part in his next Broadway musical "Best Foot Forward." During her performance she caught the eye of MGM executives who bought the rights to the production for later screen release. In 1943, June reprised her role in the film version of "Best Foot Forward." She was signed to an exclusive contract with MGM, and would appear in over forty films for the studio. She was a box-office attraction, paired with many of the major stars of the day, Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, and Jimmy Stewart. Her film credits include, "Two Sisters From Boston" (1946), "Good News" (1946), "The Three Musketeers" (1948), "Little Women" (1949), and "The Glenn Miller Story" (1953). In 1945, June married actor Dick Powell. They had two children, Pamela Allyson Powell (adopted) and Richard Powell, Jr. Dick Powell's death from cancer in 1963 devastated June and she retreated somewhat from film work, appearing only infrequently on screen and slightly more often in television films. Dick Powell was one of the founders of Four Star Television, owning several network shows. At the time of his death, his investments totaled in the tens of millions, leaving June and the children comfortable. In 1970, June was asked to replace Julie Harris on Broadway in David Merrick's musical-comedy, "Forty Carats." She secured the lead in the national touring company of "No, No, Nanette" in 1971. Touring with the show for one year, to favorable reviews. She married Dr. David Ashrow in 1976. He was a retired dentist-turn actor. They toured the states in dinner theater shows. In 1982, her autobiography, "June Allyson" , co-authored by Frances Spatz Leighton was published. In her later years she became familiar to television audiences, with her many commercials for Kimberly-Clark products for adult undergarments. She felt it was a good cause and at the time her mother was suffering from incontinence. In 1988, she was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Federal Council On Aging. Her own foundation raised significant funds for the research and education of problems pertaining to the aging. She remained busy as ever touring the country making personal appearances, headlining celebrity cruises and speaking on behalf of Kimberly-Clark. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1537 Vine Street, Hollywood, California. She died at her Ojai California home from pulmonary respiratory failure complicated by acute bronchitis. Her husband David survived her until April 23, 2007.

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