Film and Theatre Star June Allyson Dies at 88
June Allyson, who performed in several Broadway musicals before becoming one of Hollywood's leading actresses, has passed away at the age of 88. Allyson died of pulmonary respiratory failure and acute bronchitis, which had been complicated by long illness, at her home in Ojai, California.
Known for her cheerfully down-to-earth persona and husky voice, Allyson (whose real name was Ella Geisman) was born in the Bronx on October 7th, 1917. Due to an injury at age 8, with her leg bound for four years with a steel brace, the actress went through swimming therapy and was then enrolled in dance classes.
She made her Broadway debut in the 1938 revue Sing Out the News, and then performed in the ensemble of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical Very Warm for May and the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart musical Higher and Higher. She was in the chorus of Cole Porter's Panama Hattie, but also understudied Betty Hutton. When Hutton came down with the measles, Allyson went on and made a favorable impression on legendary director George Abbott, who cast her as "Minerva" in the hit 1941 show Best Foot Forward. She would head to Hollywood for the 1943 film version, and launch on her film career (she had earlier appeared in some films as a young dancer). She returned to Broadway once more, in 1968, as a replacement performer in the hit play Forty Carats.
According to an AP obituary, Allyson had said of herself, "I have big teeth. I lisp. My eyes disappear when I smile. My voice is funny. I don't sing like Judy Garland. I don't dance like Cyd Charisse. But women identify with me. And while men desire Cyd Charisse, they'd take me home to meet Mom."
Allyson was married four times (to three different men); she was the wife of movie star Dick Powell from 1945 to his death in 1963. She is the mother of Dick Powell, Jr., and also adopted Dick Powell's daughter Pamela.
She is survived by her two children, husband David Ashrow and brother Dr. Arthur Peters.