JUNE HAVER: HOLLYWOOD'S GIRL NEXT DOOR
SO, YOU THINK YOUR KID IS TALENTED
June Haver was born June 10,1926,in Rock Island Illinois as Beverly Jean Stovenour, the daughter of Fred and Marie Stovenour. She was the middle sister of three girls, Dorothy the older and Evelyn the younger(see family picture at right). Her mother and father would divorce and June would adopt the family name of her stepfather, Bert Haver. The breakup of her mother and father would have a profound effect on June but that story comes later.
To say that June was a precocious child may be one of the greatest understatements of all time. Her beauty and talents were evident from the very start. Her sister Evelyn recalls:
When we were little, I can remember her flouncing around in ruffles, and the neighbors cooing over her. "Just like a Dresden Doll!" they used to say.... [but] when she finally dislodged herself from Mother's side, I found she was a small terror. She played the best game of sandlot baseball in the neighborhood, and whenever she went to St. Margaret's Church, she took a short cut by hopping the ties of a railroad trestle that stretched high over the river. ...She's a very self assured girl, my sister.
June's parents would soon learn how self assured June was at the ripe old age of five when her parents received a mysterious bill in the mail from June's kindergarten teacher. It seems that one day her teacher had made an announcement that piano lessons were now being offered. June signed up without receiving permission from her parents. Quite surprised, her parents asked for a selection from little June expecting a rousing rendition of TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR. June sat down at the piano to tickle the ivories with a complicated Haydn selection. After that, there was little doubt that the lessons would be paid for without question. Now June spent her spare time at the piano keys while the other children were busying themselves with stickball and hopscotch. June soon became such an accomplished pianist that at the age of seven, she played with Eugene Gossens and the Cincinnati Symphony.
June's flair for drama and public speaking also were being developed. At eight years old, she began elocution lessons being the recipient of many awards in public speaking competitions. Her abilities proved to be of the highest qualities when an agent from MGM while making a countrywide tour to discover the next Shirley Temple tested 5,000 youngsters, among them June and offered her a contract to star for MGM. But Marie Haver decided that a normal childhood should come first and the offer was declined.
Still, June's desire to entertain could not be quashed. Returning to Rock Island, IL., she would make several appearances on radio. At the age of 11, the bold child would walk into the office of the radio station and propose a new show. The show would star talented kids from around the city. June would host, write and perform in the show. The owner was interested but was not sure a sponsor could be found. June took care of that too. She marched into a local ice cream company and pitched the idea. Within weeks the show was on the air. Her compensation would be $2 a week and all the ice cream she could eat. As a few years passed, her popularity escalated into her starring role in 3 radio shows a week.
COME ON ALONG, COME ON ALONG TO TED FIO RITO's BIG TIME BAND
June now turned her significant determination into establishing herself as a top female vocalist. The fastest road to success in this area was to latch onto a touring BIG BAND as its lead female singer. Now at the ripe old age of 13, she devised a plan of attack to get her foot in the door. As June herself exlpains:
Everytime a bandleader came to our town, I'd march to his hotel armed with my scrapbook. I'd tell him that he could get a lot of publicity - his picture on the front page of our town paper, no less - if he would let me sing with his band for his one night stand in our town. Dick Jurgens was the first to agree with me, only I got my picture on the front page. Later, when Freddie Martin came to town, I did the same thing with his band for the Rock Island Centennial. That was one of the biggest thrills of my life.
As luck would have it, Ted Fio Rito appearing in nearby Chicago heard the radio broadcast and summoned June and her mother for an audition. So impressed was Ted that on the spot he offered June $75 a week to sing with the band on its cross country summer tour. At the age of 15, June Haver was the featured singer in one of the premiere Big Bands in the country. However, the youngster would be in the constant accompaniment of a chaperone, her mother. The tour ended in California. In LALA land June would make her first screen appearance in two 1941 Universal Musical Shorts. The first with Ted Fio Rito was entitled SKYLINE SERENADE; the second with Tommy Dorsey was entitled TRUMPET SERENADE. But with the coming of the new school year, June would have to return to high school. Recognizing the many opportunities Hollywood offered, June's mother moved the family to Beverly Hills. June would enroll at Beverly Hills High.
MR. ZANUCK, IT'S TIME FOR MY CLOSE-UP At Beverly Hills high, June would perform in several school productions. Previously, June had been the instigator in promoting her talents, but this time her mother would take the initiative. June had the leading role in a high school play called EVER SINCE EVE. June's mother called every studio talent head extolling the virtues of a young actress in the play. When asked her relationship, she would claim to be a friend of the drama teacher. The gambit paid off. Every studio made June an offer. It was finally decided that 20th Century Fox would win the June Haver sweepstakes due to the fact that the studio was closest to June's house and she could walk to work. Six months passed without any work on the silver screen. A distressing phone call from June's agent delivered the news that the studio would not be renewing her contract. At first, devastated by the news, June's dander was raised. She proceeded to march into the executive's office now wearing a glamorous dress, diamond earrings, high heels, a fancy hat and a full complement of make-up demanding that before the studio drop her she should be given at least one screen test. So taken aback by her boldness, the exec agreed to the test. June immediately went home and wrote her own test script which involved the story of a young lovelorn pianist. It would showcase her dramatic, musical and vocal talents. She was re-signed to a new contract. Three more months passed with no screen time. Finally, a brief appearance in the Alice Faye vehicle THE GANG's ALL HERE. Most of her performance was left on the cutting room floor. Don't blink or you may miss her as the nightclub hatcheck girl. In the summer of 1943, Darryl F. Zanuck would return to the studio after a stint as a colonel in the signal corps during WWII. He would review all of the contract player's screen tests who were signed during his hiatus. He was taken by the many talents of June. Zanuck envisioned her as a possible successor to Betty Grable. Her first featured appearance would come in HOME IN INDIANA playing Cri-Cri, the sophisticated teen femme fatale to farm boy Lon McCallister and tom boy Jeanne Crain. Her first starring role would follow in IRISH EYES ARE SMILING playing the love interest of Tin Pan Alley composer Ernest R. Ball. What would ensue would be a meteoric rise to stardom in 15 motion pictures. At one time, the editor of Photoplay would instruct its photographers to shoot as many cover photos of June as was humanly possible. Her popularity was so overwhelming that a cover with June Haver was considered money in the bank even if no article on June appeared in the fanzine. Her ascent to stardom was was matched only by her abrupt departure from the screen. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The fifteen films of June Haver are:
THE GANG'S ALL HERE 1943
HOME IN INDIANA 1944
IRISH EYES ARE SMILING 1944
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? 1945
THE DOLLY SISTERS 1945
THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE 1946
WAKE UP AND DREAM 1946
I WONDER WHO'S KISSING HER NOW 1947
SCUDDA-HOO! SCUDDA-HAY! 1948
OH, YOU BEAUTIFUL DOLL 1949
LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING 1949
THE DAUGHTER OF ROSIE O'GRADY 1950
I'LL GET BY 1950
LOVE NEST 1951
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR 1953
TIN PAN ALLEY (OOPS)
June Haver's career was brief and in the end her true talents were never allowed to be realized. She was fortunate in one sense to be taken out of token appearances and placed in starring roles by producer and later toastmaster general of the United States, Georgie Jessel. But this blessing may have truly been more of a curse. For it was under the watchful eye of Mr. Jessel that June Haver was exiled to TIN PAN ALLEY, always relegated to period pieces of the late 1800's and early 1900's playing the love interest to some vaudeville composer or performer. It is ironic that June who was such a self sufficient, determined, talented, liberated woman when dealing throughout her own life from infancy would be stuck in petticoats playing fairly submissive roles. In this author's opinion, it is the few modern set Haver movies that are her best. The ones where she plays the smart, sophisticated, hip, modern woman. Glimpses of the type of character she would have excelled at playing can be seen in such films as HOME IN INDIANA, SCUDDA HOO SCUDDA HAY, I'LL GET BY, LOVE NEST and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. But unfortunately, her talents were never cultivated before both personal and film challenges diminished her enthusiasm for advancing her career. It is thought by most critics that her finest performance came in her portrayal of Broadway legend Marilyn Miller in LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING. The film, though also set in the vaudeville era, allowed June to show all her screen talents- dramatic, comedic, dancing(ballet,tap,soft shoe), singing and piano playing. The story, though dated, was a portrayal of a woman not so far removed from Miss Haver's own personal experiences of determination, success and loss. But in my opinion, her last two films were her best- THE LOVE NEST and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. THE LOVE NEST allowed her to stretch her comedic muscles and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR finally afforded her a true leading song and dance man in the form of Dan Dailey to showcase her musical talents. But as stated earlier, June's personal life was having a profound effect on how she viewed the world and her responsibilties to her public. She refused certain assignments fearing they were not proper family entertainment. This earned her suspensions and along with her personal experiences and beliefs, she became disillusioned with the Hollywood mentality. It all culminated on February 13, 1954 when June Haver made her final starring appearance in the LUX RADIO THEATRE presentation of TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY.
INTO EACH LIFE A LITTLE RAIN MUST FALL AND THEN PRAY FOR THAT SILVER LINING
June Haver's life in Hollywood is one of many ups and downs. Early in her career like so many other starlets, June would be linked to many of the screen's leading men. Among those escorting the young June were Frank Latimore, Farley Granger and Victor Mature. But it was an old flame that won the hand of June Haver. In March of 1947, while on a four day break from the filming of SCUDDA-HOO! SCUDDA-HAY!, June would elope to Las Vegas and marry Jimmy Zito, a musician June had met while singing for the TED FIO RITO band(see picture at left). Their relationship had started as an innocent teenage crush. In retrospect, it was an impulsive decision that turned into as what June would identify as "The biggest mistake of my life." June had recently returned from a visit home in Rock Island, Illinois, where she was reunited with old schoolgirl friends who in all appearances seemed to be happily married with small babies so "cute and fat you could bite them." Her own maternal instincts were peaked and it was at this very moment, Jimmy Zito re-enters June's life. Old flames are fueled and rash decisions prevail. Immediately, it is clear that the couple's lifestyles are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Jimmy enjoys late night carousing with fellow band members. Drinking, a bad temperament and continued nights on the road all lead to a separation and divorce within three months. On her radio broadcast, Louella Parsons cites June as an "example ... of [one of Hollywood's] young girls ruining their lives through impulsiveness." But Louella quickly recants the statement after interviewing June. Louella learns of the deep pain and sorrow now enveloping June. The tragedy is multiplied when considering June had converted to Catholicism because of its belief in the sanctity of marriage. June wanted her wedded life to be forever not like her own parents' marriage.
June trying to work through the pain, throws herself into her profession. For the first time, she is given a part in which she can sink her teeth into. The film is LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING. The irony of the title to her current situation is lost on no one. June once again plays the studio game of being escorted by all the young swains of the silver screen. But, it is another old flame that once again gains the favor of Miss Haver. Dr. John Duzik, the dentist to the stars, soon becomes the preferred dinner companion of June. John Duzik is tall, handsome, successful and not in show business. In fact, he had once been engaged to June. In 1949, history repeats itself and the two are once again in love and June's ring finger once again carries Duzik's engagement ring. While pending an annulment petition of her earlier marriage to Jimmy Zito, John Duzik becomes violently ill. June is never far from his hospital bed. Nurses tell of her dedication to Duzik singing songs to him as he slowly slipped away. But nothing can be done as he surenders to the excruciating pain. John Duzik would die of a hemophilia attack during surgery on October 30,1949. Devastated, June turned to her religion for comfort. In 1950, June made a pilgrimage to the Vatican. She would return to make two more films. June would then shock the world by bidding farewell to Hollywood. She entered St. Mary's Academy in Leavenworth, Kansas as a novice sister in the Order of the Sisters of Charity. The stay would be brief as her own health would now suffer forcing her from the Order. She vows to return but her mother relates a different story:
I think Junie realized almost from the start she had a made a mistake. All her life she has been devoted to her family - a real home girl. You can understand this made it difficult to adjust to religious life.
But, you may be saying where is that silver lining you promised us? Be assured that the June Haver story has a very happy ending and to read about that please click on the FAMILY MAN button below. And for a little teaser, I leave you with this:
I AM SAD TO REPORT THAT ON JULY 4, 2005, JUNE HAVER MacMURRAY PASSED AWAY AT HER HOME IN CALIFORNIA. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE WORLD HAS LOST A SCREEN LEGEND BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY A WOMAN OF GREAT KINDNESS AND GENTLE HEART. THE MERE LOSS OF HER SMILE MAKES THIS EARTH A LITTLE DARKER. THERE IS COMFORT IN KNOWING THAT SHE IS ONCE AGAIN REUNITED WITH THE LOVE OF HER LIFE.
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Song playing in background is GIVE ME THE SIMPLE LIFE sung by June Haver in WAKE UP AND DREAM
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