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June Haver

June Haver

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Also Known As: June Stovenour,June Haver Macmurray Died: July 4, 2005
Born: June 10, 1926 Cause of Death: respiratory failure
Birth Place: Rock Island, Illinois, USA Profession: Cast ... actor dancer radio performer singer
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BIOGRAPHY

Affectionately nicknamed "The Pocket Grable," June Haver was a lovely blonde leading lady whose charms were showcased in several of 20th Century Fox's Technicolor musicals. The petite actress first displayed her skills at the tender age of 11 as a genuine radio personality. Put under contract a few years later, she was soon co-starring in musicals like "Irish Eyes are Smiling" (1944) and "Where Do We Go from Here" (1945). Fox had hoped that the effortlessly charming Haver would prove to be Betty Grable's ideal replacement as queen of the lot and even paired her with their resident blonde bombshell in "The Dolly Sisters" (1945). However, after a bad marriage and the tragic death of her fiancé, Haver's dedication to the Catholic Church overruled her interest in show business. While still a box office draw, Haver asked to be let out of her Fox contract in 1953 so that she could serve the church as a nun. After a few months in a convent that left her in dire physical straits, she returned to Hollywood, but never again appeared in another film. Studio lore maintained that Fox had only ever planned to use her as a means of keeping Grable in line anyway, but Haver was able to fashion a perfectly solid career for herself regardless. Following some indecision in the early 1950s, her post-showbiz life spent happily married to TV favorite Fred MacMurray ended up being a perfectly happy and satisfying one for the classy beauty.

A native of Brentwood, CA, June Haver was born June Stovenour on June 10, 1926. Unlike many motion pictures stars, the new surname was not a studio creation, but belonged to her stepfather and Haver adopted it upon her mother's second marriage. A gifted singer from early childhood, Haver was appearing on stage playing piano while still in grade school and was approached about film roles after winning a talent contest put on by the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She did not immediately begin a film career, but Haver had own radio program for a time and, worked as a big band singer for the likes of the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra, Freddy Martin, and Dick Jurgens. She and her mother eventually settled in California, where Haver attended Beverly Hills High School. After being named the school's most talented student, she was invited to take a screen test.

In 1942, Haver joined the 20th Century Fox talent roster for the standard rate of $75 per week, making her first film appearance via an uncredited role in Busby Berkeley's lavish musical comedy "The Gang's All Here" (1943). She was given more to do as a supporting player in the horse racing drama "Home in Indiana" (1944) and was finally elevated to leading lady status opposite Monty Woolley in "Irish Eyes are Smiling" (1944), a musical biopic based on the life of composer Ernest R. Ball. She appeared alongside future husband Fred MacMurray in "Where Do We Go from Here" (1945) and Fox paired her with their biggest asset and Hollywood's No. 1 box office draw at that time, Betty Grable, for "The Dolly Sisters" (1945). Both blonde all-American beauties, Haver and Grable possessed similar appeal and it soon became evident that Fox was grooming their new starlet to be a possible replacement should Grable ever step out of line. The studio was impressed enough with Haver's talent and appeal that she received star billing over George Montgomery in "Three Little Girls in Blue" (1946) and the actress' dramatic abilities helped to somewhat elevate the mediocre "Wake Up and Dream" (1946). That year, in a bit of publicity more famously used for Grable's shapely charms, the studio had Haver's legs insured with Lloyd's of London for $280,000. In the spring of 1947, Haver wed trumpet player Jimmy Zito, but their turbulent union was over within a year.

A biography about the life of songwriter Joe Howard, "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" (1947) benefitted from Haver's dependable charm, but even she could do little to help elevate the cornpone comedy "Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!" (1948), which starred a very young and then unknown starlet named Marilyn Monroe who would be the one to ultimately usurp Grable as Fox's queen. Likewise, "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" (1949) was remembered more for its title song, crooned by co-star Gale Robbins, than its merits as a motion picture. On the personal front, Haver soon bounced back from her failed marriage by falling in love with film studio dentist John Duzik, but before they could tie the knot, he died following what was meant to be run-of-the-mill surgery. A still devastated Haver was loaned to Warner Brothers for "Look for the Silver Lining" (1949), where she played legendary Broadway star Marilyn Miller of "Sally" and "Sunny" fame. While at that studio, Haver also starred in "The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady" (1950). Back at Fox, "I'll Get By" (1950) was an engaging remake of "Tin Pan Alley" (1940), previously an Alice Faye vehicle for the studio a decade earlier, while "Love Nest" (1951) found Haver sharing screen time yet again with Marilyn Monroe.

Continuing to land roles in charming but unmemorable films, "The Girl Next Door" (1953) cast Haver as a stage star looking for peace and quiet in the suburbs, only to fall for Dan Dailey, the friendly cartoonist next door. A pleasing Technicolor confection for audiences, the film was a less happy experience for Haver as a fall during a dance routine left her with a concussion. A dedicated Catholic, Haver found particular comfort in religion after Duzik's death and her feelings about the importance of the church in her life grew in the years that followed. After the completion of "The Girl Next Door," she shocked Fox executives by asking to be released from her contract in order to pursue her new goal of being a nun. The studio reluctantly agreed and in early 1953, Haver joined the Order of the Sisters of Charity in Kansas. "The Girl Next Door" was released a few months later sans its star to promote it. Haver's change of course proved to be short-lived, however. After seven and a half months, she left the convent, citing health issues caused by the duties she was required to perform. Although she resumed living in Hollywood, Haver refrained from acting, save for an engagement on "Lux Radio Theatre" (NBC/CBS, 1934-1955).

The following year, she began to date her former Fox co-star Fred MacMurray, who had recently lost his first wife to an early death, and the couple married in 1954. Adopting twin girls two years later, Haver - who was 17 years his junior - opted to remain a mother and housewife, while MacMurray continued to act in films and earned his most lasting fame as star of the hit sitcom "My Three Sons" (ABC/CBS, 1960-1972). The same year that hit show premiered, Haver was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but remained largely out of the limelight, living with her family on a 1,500 acre ranch in Sonoma Valley. A prolific performer until his health began to trouble him in the late 1970s, MacMurray succumbed to the effects of leukemia and pneumonia on Nov. 5, 1991, leaving behind a devastated widow. Haver lived for an additional 13 years, passing away from respiratory failure in her home on July 4, 2005. While she had largely faded from collective memory, Haver's beauty and magnetism were reintroduced to the public when Fox and Warner Archive released some of her musicals on DVD in the late 2000s.

By John Charles

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