A number of classic movie actresses carried the first name of June. Among others, June Lockhart and June Havoc, not to mention June Allyson.

None of them had careers with the odd trajectory that marked that of today’s June, June Haver.

Born in 1926 in Rockford, Illinois as June Stovenour (she was adopted by her stepfather, Bert Haver), she migrated to the Cincinnati area where she began her career as a child stage actress and later as a singer.

It was her singing that propelled her to Hollywood where her first screen appearance — in a 1941 short titled Skyline Serenade — featured Haver as a vocalist with the Ted Fio Rito band. Haver was still a teenager when she joined the ensemble, and she fell for trumpeter Jimmy Zito when she was barely in her Twenties. (The marriage lasted only about a year.)

Her acting career, comprising a relatively meager 19 movie and tv credits spanning the early Forties to the late Fifties, was short but powerful.  At her peak, she was considered by 20th Century Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck to be among the studio’s elite female talents, notably Betty Grable and Linda Darnell.

Her good looks and vocal abilities made Haver stand out in the bright-eyed and bushy -tailed musicals of the period. She lacked the meserizingly good figure that Grable displayed in those World War II pinups, but nonetheless became known as “the pocket Grable.” (Haver and Grable appear together in 1945’s The Dolly Sisters.)

Then, something happened.  After making 1953’s The Girl Next Door, Haver surprised Hollywood by declaring her intention of joining a nunnery.  In February of that year, she signed on as a postulant nun with the Sisters of Charity in Leavenworth, Kansas.

It didn’t take.  After a few months, Haver left the Sisters supposedly because of “poor health.”  One suspects that real reason could have been summarized in two words — Fred MacMurray. Haver had long been complaining of what she deemed the inferior suitors who pursued her in Hollywood, but MacMurray, then a big Hollywood star, changed all that.

Haver and MacMurray began what was extolled as one of Hollywood’s happiest marriages in 1954.  It lasted until his death in 1991. Which brings us to the following e-mail we recently received from Nancy Wiman:

Thanks for your article on Fred MacMurray. (Monday Quiz FRED MacMURRAY — Feb. 29.)

I ran into he and his wife June Haver in the parking lot of the Melia Madrid in Spain. She had been a particular favorite of mine, so I approached very slowly and politely. I had no interest in speaking with him, but every time I tried to speak with Miss Haver, he would answer for her.

I don’t know if he was being so protective of her, or simply controlling. The one thing I remember most about the encounter was the fact her face had not aged one iota. There were no wrinkles, and her warmth made me think of a blonde Madonna. I felt so special having the opportunity to speak with her.

 

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