How Long Can It Last?—June Allyson & Dick Powell
“What’s with Allyson?” a newsman asked a girl on the set of The McConnell Story at Warner Brothers.
“Don’t you know?” she asked. “It’s all over the lot!”
“What’s all over the lot?”
The extra smiled. “You’re kidding,” she said. “You must be kidding. Little Junie has fallen head over heels in love with Alan Ladd and he with her.”
It sounds incredible, but that’s the story that was making the rounds in Hollywood several weeks ago. There was no truth to it, but the vicious rumor caught on like a prairie fire.
A columnist had printed the tip-off: “June Allyson and Dick Powell are quarreling and it’s serious.”
The next thing anyone knew, Dick Powell and Sue Ladd were having a conference. They had been singed and hurt, but they were determined to extinguish the gossip.
Dick began to take June out practically every night.
“By practice,” he explained, “June and I are not nightclub habitués, but we’re determined to show people that our, marriage is okay. There’s nothing wrong with it, no matter what you hear.” Dick and June showed up at Ciro’s to see Sammy Davis, Jr. They attended Sonja Henie’s circus party. They made the club rounds, living and loving it up, and when they were sure they had dispelled the ugly rumor, they took off—just the two of them—to Sun Valley for a month of relaxation and winter sports.
Alan Ladd drove down to a resort, Rancho Santa Fe.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the June Allyson-Dick Powell wedding. They were married on August 19, 1945, in the home of Johnny Green, the loquacious MGM musical director.
Dick is fifteen years older than June. She was his third wife, and at the time there were many who insisted that the marriage would not work.
They said that Dick was too professorial, that he treated June like a wayward little girl, that she never would be mistress of her own house, that sooner or later she would come to resent Dick’s domination.
The record shows that the Powells have had several quarrels in the last ten years. “Which married couple hasn’t?” Dick asks. But their marriage is more secure than ever, thanks to these very quarrels and to Dick Powell’s great understanding.
There was a time several years ago when June was reported to be infatuated with Dean Martin.
While Dean and June were seeing each other in New York (June was there on a vacation) Powell back in Hollywood said there was nothing to worry about. June was a grown-up girl and could handle herself very nicely.
On another occasion it was said that Peter Lawford was June Allyson’s ardent admirer. Powell wouldn’t even dignify that particular rumor with a reply.
As to the gossip about June and Alan Ladd, here’s what June confided to a friend. “I don’t know how it got started. I really don’t. Sure, I like Alan. Who doesn’t? He’s a wonderful guy. But how, anyone could imply there was anything between us I don’t know.
“After all, Sue was on the set a good deal of the time . . . Sure, Richard and I have had our spats. But the latest one had nothing to do with Alan. Thank heaven, Richard is sensible enough to discount these stories. He’s an actor and he knows how easily rumors can begin about a leading lady.
“I’ve had reporters call me day after day. They want to know about Alan and me. I told them it was ridiculous, crazy. Who has time for that sort of nonsense? But once these stories start, what a time you’ve got!
“By the time we get back from Sun Valley, I sure hope the whole thing has blown over.”
Thrusting the Alan Ladd canard to one side, what factors are there that could possibly cause dissension in the Powell household?
In Pamela and Rick, the Powells have two of the most adorable children in Mandeville Canyon. They have all the money they will ever need. They own a fifty-eight-acre estate, three cars, three corporations. They have far-flung financial interests. What could possibly be wrong at home?
First, June has been working too long and too hard. In the last two years she has made six pictures. In the past eleven months, she has worked unceasingly in Strategic Air Command, Woman’s World, The Shrike and The McConnell Story. She’s edgy and jumpy.
Between pictures she has gone on location with Richard, shopped for and decorated their new house. And most important of all, she has changed her way of life to include her stepdaughter Ellen, and her half-brother, Arthur Peters, twenty-one.
Ellen and Arthur came to live with the Powells this year. What this means is that June has a houseful of children ranging in age from four to twenty-one. Managing such a household is a wearing job.
Ellen Powell, at sixteen, is entering the problem years. Arthur is a medical student. Pamela and little Ricky see their mother much less than they’d like.
The Powells have about seven in service, plus four dogs, two cats and two horses. And it’s June’s job to see that the household functions smoothly, a job she insists upon fulfilling even though it’s taking its toll in temperament.
Dick works hard on his various enterprises all day long—he has just finished editing The Conqueror, an outstanding film he directed last summer—and when he comes home, he likes everything to be in order. He wants his Scotch and water, his seat by the fireplace, and a few minutes of relaxation.
The trouble is that June, omitting the Scotch and water, wants pretty much the same things. After a day’s work at the studio, she’s tired, too. But then there’s the house and the four children.
“As a matter of fact,” she said, “Richard and I haven’t had very much time together. That’s why this Sun Valley vacation will be a very good thing.”
IN SUN VALLEY DICK AND JUNE VACATIONED, SMILED HAPPILY FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS TO PROVE NOTHING WAS WRONG—UNTIL DICK TURNED UP IN BANDAGES.
The first morning there they took the chair lift to the highest slope.
He teases her about her skiing, but actually she’s almost as good as Dick.
Dick, a camera bug, snapped her, sent photos home to the kids.
Evenings were the only times they spent indoors. And then . . . calamity!
Originally, June and Dick. planned to hire a tourist cabin in Ketchum, a small town near Sun Valley. June was going to cook for her husband. It would be another honeymoon, idyllic and peaceful.
“It’s not that June doesn’t cook well,” Dick later explained, after he canceled the cabin routine. “It’s just that we thought Sun Valley Lodge and the hotel service would be a little more appropriate for a vacation.”
June and Dick are both pretty good skiers, because they are both supple and light on their feet. Originally a dancer, June surprised the Sun Valley ski instructors by learning how to slalom so quickly.
There’s a story about their skiing that’s told around Hollywood with great relish. When the Powells went to Sun Valley a year or so ago, June bought the most expensive clothes and ski equipment. She also hired the best ski teachers.
Dick thought it was all a lot of nonsense. But he’s a camera bug, and likes to run family motion pictures, so he hired a man to take movies of him and June skiing down the mountainside.
When the movies were developed they were sent to Dick in California. One night he ran them off at home to the accompaniment of explanations and wisecracks.
“See that figure coming down the mountainside?” he asked his children. “See that figure with her skis spread a mile apart? See that figure who looks as though she’s ready to fall head-first into the snow? Well, that’s your mother after five hundred dollars’ worth of instruction!”
The figure Dick was talking about was rather fuzzy on the film. Once the camera moved in for a close-up, however, the figure Dick had lampooned turned out to be himself!
The family roared. Actually, Dick is a better skier than June but not by much.
“Another season on skis,” says Leif Odmark, a Sun Valley instructor, “and Mrs. Powell will be very good. She has rhythm and grace. She’s come a long way.”
June Allyson has come a long way in other ways, too. Ten years ago when she became Mrs. Richard Powell, she was scared stiff. She was shy, insecure, frightened, completely dependent on her husband. She knew nothing about housekeeping, nothing about personnel, nothing about budgets. It was Dick who did the hiring and firing, Dick who chose the furnishings, Dick who paid the bills.
June was ashamed of her background and avoided probing interviewers. Interior decorators reported that she had no idea of what should be in her home.
Lovingly, Dick used to refer to June as, “my little idiot wife.” He judged her scripts, gave her his advice, tried to bolster her courage and inflate her ego.
It has been suggested that subconsciously June resented her total dependence on Dick. If so, she never showed it.
Until lately she always has let him make the major decisions. She didn’t want to star in The Stratton Story. Dick said, “Don’t be foolish. With Jimmy Stewart you’ll be a big hit.’ Dick was right. He’s been frequently so.
A little over a year ago, June said that she was tired of the stories MGM was giving her. She wanted to quit. “Only I lacked the courage to free lance. After all, I’d been at Metro almost ten years. My contract had been renegotiated twice. The studio had been kind to me, but I knew I couldn’t go along forever playing opposite Van Johnson.
“Richard said if I felt that way, I should quit, that I’d have no trouble getting work as a free lance. I was hesitant. He told me to put my foot down. I listened to him and I left the studio. I’ve never been happier in my career.
“I’ve had the most wonderful offers. I’ve worked at Paramount, Warners, 20th, and I’ve been able to choose my own stories.”
In one of these, The Shrike, in which June stars opposite José Ferrer, she plays for the first time a bit of a “heavy.”
“Richard didn’t want me to play in this picture,” she explains, “but for the first time I disobeyed him. I said, ‘I want to play it.’ And that’s just what I did.”
Before June and Dick left for Sun Valley, June gave her first dinner party. “It was the first time I arranged everything myself—ordered the food, arranged the guest list and so forth.” The party was for Harold Cohen, a Pittsburgh screen critic, and it came off beautifully. June was tremendously proud of herself. “I knew I could do it,” she said proudly.
Friends say that the quarrels in the Powell household have resulted from June’s declaration of independence.
It has taken her ten years to mature, but now her personality is coming to the fore, ready to assert itself. June has found confidence. Her relationship with “my Richard” has changed to one of equality.
Being the kind of husband he is, warmhearted, understanding and considerate, Dick Powell thinks June’s growth is a very good thing. For years he has been telling her that she has absolutely no reason to suffer from feelings of inferiority.
“You’ve got looks and talent and ability,” he once said, “and you can do anything you set your mind to!”
June realizes, of course, that she owes her character development to Dick, that it was he who brought her out. No one, for example, was happier than Dick when June insisted upon furnishing their new home herself. She picked the decorator and together they did a magnificent job.
June has reached the point where she is ready to assume all her wifely responsibilities. She is giving the orders in her house. That goes not only for Rick and Pam but for Ellen and Arthur as well.
When she has something to say, she wants Richard to listen to her as an equal, not as a precocious child feeling her oats.
Not too long ago, the Powells had a quarrel in public. June left the table when she felt the tears coming to her eyes. She went out, ordered a cab and went home. Next day, it was all over. But again, June had demonstrated her independence.
It has been hinted of late, that June’s new success has given her a rate of growth faster than Dick’s. They say, “Junie is outgrowing her husband. It’s just a question of time before they begin to differ about major things. After all, she was elected the number-one box-office star of 1954. She’s coming along fast.”
Dick Powell is the mastermind behind June’s new success. June is the first to admit that. Dick knows every avenue of show business. He started as a saxophone player and crooner. He graduated to master of ceremonies. He was a musical comedy star, then a straight actor. He organized his own radio programs. Presently he became a director, producer and president of three show business corporations. He is also a wonderful father, a charming host and a shrewd businessman.
Would June ever give all this up? She was once asked that question. Her answer: “I would sooner give up my right arm. The most important thing in my whole life is my husband. And he always will be!”
It looks as though the Powell-Allyson marriage will last a long time. Each of the participants has much of what the other needs, wants and loves.
—BY WILLIAM BARBOUR
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MAY 1955