Gloria DeHaven died on July 30 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was 91.
Her obit in The New York Times put it succinctly: Ms. DeHaven never became a major movie star, but she was the fantasy hometown sweetheart of many a wartime serviceman.
In our Oct. 9 blog last year — Pinups From A Marine’s Photo Album — we made exactly that point. Featured was a photo of Gloria (below) from a private collection of several pinups collected by Marine Sgt. Norman Plemons when he was stationed in Korea in the early 1950s.
DeHaven, who autographed the picture to Norm, was already a major player at MGM. She had starred opposite such titans as Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and June Allyson.
Little known is that fact that Frank Sinatra failed initially to make his mark as a musical comedy star in 1944’s Step Lively with George Murphy and Gloria DeHaven. That’s because the picture, in the delicate words of MGM queen Esther Williams, was not a “huge success.” (Gloria was praised however.)
To say that DeHaven came from a show biz family is a considerable understatement.
Gloria was the daughter of Carter DeHaven and Flora Parker. Both were entertainers — her father was a vaudeville star and silent movie personality, her mother was an actress. Gloria’s brother, Carter DeHaven Jr., was a film producer. Other members of the DeHaven clan are in show business to this day.
Gloria was a big band singer for a time before being picked up by MGM in the early 40’s. A string of screen musicals followed. Gloria even found herself playing her own mother in 1950’s Three Little Words.
She loved her time at the big studio — “Every hour at MGM was a joy,” she later said. She certainly made her share of lifelong friends there, including Johnson and Sinatra. (Her first husband was actor John Payne.) Like many vintage female stars, the bulk of her later career comprised tv appearances; she made about 24 big screen movies.
Despite the modified spiciness of the above photo, DeHaven was never really a sex symbol in the manner of, say, Betty Grable or Rita Hayworth. (But make no mistake: the figure pictured above and the winsome wholesomeness attached commanded attention.)
DeHaven was a musical performer first and foremost, and kept up her tuneful skills until fairly recently. She’ll always be remember as one of classic Hollywood’s most genial — and quietly sexy — stars.