June Allyson was an American film and television actress, dancer, and singer known for her "girl-next-door" image. She was born Eleanor Geisman on October 7, 1917, in the Bronx, New York City. Allyson's career spanned several decades, starting in the 1930s and continuing into the 1980s.
June Allyson had a challenging childhood marked by poverty and her father's alcoholism. She began dancing at an early age to help support her family, and as a teenager, she performed in short films and on stage. A successful appearance in the Broadway musical "Best Foot Forward" in 1941 brought her to the attention of Hollywood.
Allyson's film debut was in the adaptation of "Best Foot Forward" (1943). She then rose to fame in the mid-1940s with roles in films such as "Two Girls and a Sailor" (1944), "Music for Millions" (1944), and "The Three Musketeers" (1948).
She became one of the top stars at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and was often cast as the wholesome, cheerful character in musicals and comedies. Allyson's persona resonated with American audiences, particularly during and just after World War II.
Her notable co-stars included Van Johnson, with whom she made several films creating a popular screen team. Other frequent collaborators were James Stewart and Dick Powell, whom she married in 1945.
Further Success and Personal Life
June Allyson continued to work throughout the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in successful films like "Little Women" (1949), in which she portrayed Jo March, "The Glenn Miller Story" (1954), working again with James Stewart, and "Strategic Air Command" (1955).
She and Powell adopted a son and daughter. Unfortunately, Powell died of cancer in January 1963, leaving Allyson a widow. She later married and divorced twice more.
Later Years and Legacy
After Dick Powell's death, Allyson took a break from acting but returned to television in the 1970s and 1980s, including appearances on "The Love Boat" and "Murder, She Wrote."
She also did variety shows, talk shows, and commercials. In the late 70s and early 80s, Allyson was the TV spokesperson for Depend adult diapers, making her one of the first celebrities to endorse a product of this nature.
Allyson suffered from alcoholism and depression, particularly after Powell's death, but she overcame these challenges and later worked to raise funds for research on urological diseases and for the promotion of the June Allyson Foundation for Public Awareness and Medical Research.
June Allyson passed away on July 8, 2006, at the age of 88. Her legacy in Hollywood is that of a versatile star who could handle both drama and comedy, musicals and action films, and whose on-screen persona captured the optimistic spirit of America in the mid-20th century.
In addition to her entertainment career, June Allyson's work for various charitable causes and her open discussion of personal health issues helped break down barriers and promote public awareness on previously taboo subjects.
For those interested in learning more about June Allyson:
- June Allyson's autobiography, "June Allyson" for an intimate look at her life.
- The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) contains a comprehensive list of her filmography and television appearances.