June Haver bio: Hollywood actress who briefly became a nun has died
Actress June Haver, the blonde star of several popular 20th Century Fox musicals such as Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1944), The Dolly Sisters (1945), and Three Little Girls in Blue (1946), and the widow of actor Fred MacMurray, died of respiratory failure in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood on July 4. Haver was 79. (Photo: June Haver publicity shot ca. late ’40s.)
With her peaches-and-cream complexion, June Haver (born June Stovenour on June 10, 1926, in Rock Island, Illinois) graced the screen for about a decade, invariably cast as a sort of walking, talking, and singing blonde doll. Haver’s movies were usually musicals, in addition to a couple of light comedies (Love Nest, The Girl Next Door) and Henry Hathaway’s pleasant, rural-set romantic comedy/drama Home in Indiana (1944), co-starring fellow youthful Fox actors Jeanne Crain and Lon McCallister. (McCallister and Haver would join forces again in the 1948 romantic comedy-drama Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!)
June Haver: Fox ’threat’ to ’pin-up’ Betty Grable
Initially, June Haver was to have been 20th Century Fox’s “threat” to the studio’s top peaches-and-cream blonde, Betty Grable, with whom Haver co-starred in Irving Cummings’ highly successful The Dolly Sisters. But despite a handful of popular movies to her credit, Haver was never to become one of the studio’s top stars. Betty Grable continued to reign supreme well into the early ’50s.
Following the unexpected death of her fiance, dentist John Duzik, in 1949, June Haver apparently lost interest in her career. (Ironically, one of Haver’s 1949 releases was called Look for the Silver Lining, a musical about Broadway entertainer Marilyn Miller.) In the ’50s, Haver starred in only four movies: the musicals I’ll Get By (1950) and The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950), and the aforementioned light comedies Love Nest (1951), opposite William Lundigan and with Marilyn Monroe in a small supporting role, and The Girl Next Door (1953), with Dan Dailey.
Leaving Hollywood to become a nun
June Haver was a devout Roman Catholic. After quitting films, she decided to become a nun and entered a convent in Kansas. Several months later, however, Haver left the convent, reportedly for health reasons. Other reports claimed she missed her family.
In 1954, Haver married the recently widowed Fred MacMurray, with whom she had co-starred in the 1945 musical Where Do We Go from Here?. The couple remained married until MacMurray’s death in 1991.
In later years, June Haver told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ruthe Stein that she had no regrets about giving up her acting career, saying that the working actresses of her day “ended up sleeping alone and being very lonely. Their children are writing awful books about them.”
Haver also remarked that her two (adopted) daughters had promised never to write a tell-all book about her. She then added. “I told them if they wanted to write about their dad, that was OK.”
20th Century Fox’s blondes: Their movies together
At 20th Century Fox, the studio’s blonde female stars were at some point in their careers featured in the same film alongside their (potential) predecessors / competitors / successors. Here are a few examples: Alice Faye and Madeleine Carroll in On the Avenue (1937), Alice Faye and Betty Grable in Tin Pan Alley (1940), Betty Grable and June Haver in the aforementioned The Dolly Sisters (photo), and Betty Grable and Carole Landis in Moon Over Miami (1941) and I Wake Up Screaming (1942).
A few more: Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Betty Grable and Sheree North in How to Be Very Very Popular (1955), June Haver and Marilyn Monroe in the aforementioned Love Nest, Marilyn Monroe and Hope Lange in Bus Stop (1956).
June Haver / Betty Grable The Dolly Sisters image: 20th Century Fox.