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June Havoc, Gypsy Rose Lee, and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

June Havoc Gentleman's AgreementJune Havoc Dies

For the most part, both her film roles and performances were negligible. Although she played leads in minor fare such as Intrigue (1947), with George Raft, and Lady Possessed (1952), with James Mason, her best remembered role is that of Gregory Peck's Jewish secretary who tries to pass for a Gentile in Elia Kazan's Academy Award-winning drama Gentleman's Agreement (1947).

June Havoc was much more successful onstage. Among her most important Broadway productions were Cole Porter's Mexican Hayride (1944); Sadie Thompson (also 1944), replacing Ethel Merman in this musical based on W. Somerset Maugham's short story “Rain”; That Ryan Girl (1945), in the title role; and a revival of Dinner at Eight (1966), as the society hostess played by Billie Burke in the 1933 George Cukor film.

Havoc's last Broadway appearance was in the early 1980s, playing Miss Hannigan in Annie.

Havoc also wrote several plays, including Marathon '33, based on her marathon dancing during the Depression years. The play earned her a Tony nomination for Best Director, in addition to a Best Actress nod for star Julie Harris.

Havoc's two books of memoirs were Early Havoc (1959) and More Havoc (1980).

In 2003, a 99-seat Off Off Broadway performance space in an office building on West 36th Street was renamed the June Havoc Theater.

As for her mother and sister, Havoc told the New York Times' Alex Witchel in a 2003 interview:

“My sister was beautiful and clever — and ruthless. My mother was endearing and adorable — and lethal. They were the same person. I was the fool of the family — the one who thought I really was loved for me, for myself.”

Gypsy Rose LeeHavoc and Gypsy Rose Lee (a.k.a. Louise Hovick, right) became estranged following the publication of Gypsy in 1957. The two sisters reportedly made amends at the time of Lee's death from cancer in 1970.

Based on Henry Farrell's 1960 novel, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) has some curious similarities to the June Havoc-Gypsy Rose Lee rivalry story.

In Robert Aldrich's film (adapted by Lukas Heller), Bette Davis plays Baby Jane, an aging, former vaudeville child star whose career went downhill after she outgrew her curly persona. Jane's nemesis is her invalid sister, Joan Crawford, a nobody as a child, but a major movie star as an adult.

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1 Comment to June Havoc, Gypsy Rose Lee, and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

  1. Hi, I'm the author of MAMA ROSE'S TURN, which is the first full biography of Gypsy and June's mother, Rose Thompson Hovick. When I started fact-checking EARLY HAVOC while doing research for my book I found that just about everything June had said about her family was a lie. I have never seen such strange lies before, either. She lied about how several family membes died, just to make them look dysfunctional. Bizarre! It makes the idea that she may well have inspired the character of “Baby Jane”quite plausible.

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