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It Is True What They Say About June Allyson?

“Lou,” they said, “it’s like this.”

And then they told me what it was like. “There’s this June Allyson,” they said. “Nice kid. Very upsetting.”

“I nodded solemnly. I’m not one to get upset about nice kids, but who argues with editors?

“Her sex appeal isn’t wrapped like Turner’s,” they said. “She can’t strip your nerves like Davis. Bergman’s face is more beautiful. But for four years, we’ve been polling our readers, and our readers have been yelling ‘Allyson’! Howcome?”

“Howcome?” I parroted.

They said that that was what I was supposed to find out. Clinically. They said they had it figured it must be personality. The only thing was, whose?

Did the personality that emerged from the pages of MODERN SCREEN month after month actually belong to June Allyson? Was she truly a creature composed of two-thirds whimsy, and the other third dedicated to the idea that wrinkling one’s nose was irresistible?

Or was this personality a hoax, a creation of MODERN SCREEN, destined to wrinkle its nose down the years, while the real Allyson marched off in six other directions, ignoring her fictional alter ego?

A lot of caustic readers had questioned the Allyson of the stories, already. “Nyah,” they sneered. “There ain’t no Santy Claus. There ain’t no fairies. And there ain’t any sich a person as Junie-bug.”

MODERN SCREEN had thereupon taken the problem to Dick Powell. “Look,” it had said. “Write how she isn’t always cute, your wife. Write how she doesn’t bless everybody’s pointed head.”

But he couldn’t. When he finished his article, she was still cute. Cuter, even.

So they—the editors—finally settled on me. “He’s her husband,” they said deprecatingly. “But you—you’re unprejudiced. Go see the girl. Take a stop-watch. Stay away from ice-cream sodas. Go there coldly, fishy-eyed.

And let us have it straight. Is she there, or did we make her up?”

I went. But first I checked everybody else in town who’d ever heard of Allyson to find out all there was to know. I read her official biography at M-G-M. It said she loved sailing, among other things. Yet everyone in Hollywood claims Dick Powell sold his boat because June couldn’t stand the water. Significant? If you’re me, yes.

You check with Dick at RKO, where he is making Stations West, and show him the biography. He says it’s wrong. June hates sailing. You check back with M-G-M, and they say biographies are based on stars’ own statements, and therefore there can’t be a mistake.

Then you find out from people who know June well that she used to be wild about sailing, but changed after her marriage. You dig further, and finally a confidante of June’s snitches.

Both Dick and June love to sail. But June soon noticed that Dick always got bad sinus attacks after a cruise. Knowing he’d never admit that his favorite sport got him down, she didn’t point it out. Instead, she began to complain of not feeling well after a sail. That was different. Dick decided he wasn’t going to make June suffer, and he got rid of the boat. And June’s eyes narrowed into that adoring little squint of hers, as she thanked him for being so thoughtful! (When Dick reads this, it’s going to be a surprise. He still thinks she can’t stand the water.)

The idea for a bit of feminine strategy like that just doesn’t come out of the blue. You have to sit down and think it out. June, if she is to be credited with any advantages, did have to start thinking early in life. Her not too happy childhood, spent a good part in hospitals, and later in steel back braces, as a result of being hit by a falling tree-branch, may have had something to do with it.

She remembers her first dance, at the age of fourteen, because she- was wearing a brace under her dress at the time. She also remembers it because of the look on the boy’s face when he put his arm around her and felt the metal. His mouth fell open, and with the clumsiness of youth, he started to ask her what she had on. June fled, tears spouting, and never went to another party or talked to another boy until she’d won her first job on the stage, freed at last from the cage she’d had to wear so long. It was during the period between the party and her first job that she started her thinking and planning to get somewhere in life—somewhere even further than girls who had never suffered from a trick back.

The odd thing is that many youngsters with this sort of beginning grow into rather grim, introspective adults. June, however, had a natural interest in people, and learning how others felt and thought helped her to manage her own life and affairs.

She was dancing in a Broadway show when her first movie bid came in the form of a telegram from Louis B. Mayer of M-G-M. She didn’t call her agent. She didn’t have one then because she didn’t think she was important enough to interest one. She proceeded to negotiate a contract all by herself. The wires went back and forth between Hollywood and New York for two months. At the studio Mr. Mayer was surrounded by a battery of legal experts on contracts. In New York, June was surrounded by the none-too-cheerful decor of a furnished room.

best brain forward . . .

The studio wanted her for just one picture, Best Foot Forward, which she had done on the stage. June insisted on a term contract. She got it. As they will tell you now at M-G-M, June not only knew what she wanted, she knew what M-G-M wanted! It is one of Mr. Mayer’s pet jokes.

It was a nice piece of business, but June isn’t particularly proud of it. She is more proud of being fair in life, of something, for instance, that happened only recently in connection with her latest picture, Good News. Good News is a top production, boasting some of the studio’s most important stars, yet its director, Chuck Walters, never directed a picture before in his life! He had only handled dance sequences.

June’s friends rose up in protest. Her agent cried no! How could the studio entrust one of its biggest stars to a man making his debut as a director?

There was a conference between June and the studio heads. They told her they had only one thing to say. They had taken a chance on her when she made her first picture; was she willing to give another newcomer similar consideration? June got up, said, “Of course,” and the meeting was over.

Now, for those who doubt June’s personality, here was a working demonstration of June applying a little shot of it. What do you suppose Chuck Walters thinks of her for helping to give him his first chance? Or any of his friends? Or any of two hundred other people around the studio who were closely connected with the production and wanted it to have June’s star-power? Or, leaving the studio, what about the company’s salesmen who have to sell the picture and the exhibitors who have to play it? They knew they were going to get a film version of Good News, but they hardly dared hope it would have a top star like June to make it doubly appealing.

Take another incident. It is pretty well known that Edwin Knopf, who has produced some of June’s best pictures, is crazy about her. You ask why, and someone says it’s because Knopf considers her one of the most considerate and cooperative of stars. formant, and you get a typical example.

When Knopf was making A Sailor Takes a Wife, the picture fell behind schedule. Late one afternoon, a new scene was being set up and the cameraman ran into difficulty lighting June. The lights seemed perfect for her stand-in, but didn’t seem to click on June at all. Finally, the cameraman gave up fussing with the ares and went up for a close look at her.

“June, what’s happened to your complexion?” he asked. “Your face has a ruddy look to it, that I can’t shade out.”

She had no answer. On impulse he touched her forehead. “Why, you’re burning up!” he cried. “You’ve got a fever!”

She nodded, and slumped into the nearest chair. A doctor found she had a temperature, and ordered her home. She had known that morning when she awakened that something was wrong, but she also knew that Knopf was behind, and she didn’t want to delay him any more.

Maybe you would have a good slant on June if you happened to be a bit player in one of her pictures. Even if you have only two lines to say to her, June will rehearse with you as conscientiously as she will with a principal or the star playing opposite her. More than that, she’ll help you on your lines, and then ask you fo coach her on her own. “She partners up quick,” comments one extra.

June is human. She has done some mean things in her life. She still does. But when realization hits her, she marches right up to the party she has- hurt and makes a full confession—and a staunch friend. When she was nine years old and in a hospital ward, she stole the money-bank of a little boy in the next bed. She was going home the next day. That morning, dressed and out in the street, she couldn’t stand it any longer and ran back to the boy. In front of him and the nurses she told what she had done. Everybody cried.

Soon after she started at M-G-M, June became jealous of Gloria De Haven. Gloria was gorgeous. The makeup experts fussed with her for hours. June they disposed of in fifteen minutes. Soon after that Gloria began to get in wrong with the director; she was always coming in late on the set, while June was always on time. Gloria said nothing but looked at June in a puzzled way. Then, one day, Gloria did something very thoughtful for her.

It was too much for June. She ran the director and told him the truth. She had made it her business to watch for Gloria’s arrival at the studio every morning, and then duck into the makeup chair just ahead of her. There she would stall and insist on elaborate attention until she knew Gloria could never be made up in time for the set call.

a true confession . . .

After she told this to the director, June ran right to Gloria and repeated the whole story. She didn’t spare herself; admitted her jealousy of Gloria’s beauty.

There is only one reason this story can be told. June and Gloria are the best of friends. If any two girls understand each other, they do. June makes it her business to be on the same footing with everyone else she meets or works with.

Perhaps one of the most revealing things about June is that you never hear just average comments on her. They are all specialized, as if well thought out.

Talking about her work, one producer will say, “She has magical presence on the screen. Some of the most talented actors and actresses know that the second they get in front of the camera they’d better start acting or there will be a lull. Their presence counts for little. It’s the opposite for June. Just seeing her is almost enough.”

At the opposite end of the studio personnel is the young, third-assistant director who has to summon June to the set when a scene is ready to go. “She doesn’t play hide-and-seek with you, like so many others,” he says. “She knows I’m responsible for having her ready. Just when I’m told to get her, I turn around and there she is coming up and giving me a reassuring wink. Boy, is a girl like that a comfort!”

I considered the testimony gathered so far:

“ . . . considerate and cooperative . . . fair . . . gave me my chance . . . honest with herself . . . magical presence . . . boy, is she a comfort . . .”

But wait a minute! According to the MODERN SCREEN Popularity Poll, June was something new and unbelievable in personalities. And these things that her friends said about her, they were nice, but weren’t they just the plain, old-fashioned virtues? Could the answer be as simple as that?

I didn’t know, so I went to visit June, myself. And I’m still gasping; I’m bowled over. What charm! What gaiety! What a personality! And they wanted me to tear that cute little girl apart! I’m insulted.





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