Petite blonde June Allyson, Hollywood’s friendly girl next door in movies of the ’40s and ’50s, died Saturday at her home in Ojai, Calif., after a long illness, her daughter said Monday. She was 88.
Allyson’s husband of nearly 30 years, David Ashrow, was at her side, daughter Pamela Allyson Powell told the Associated Press. The cause of death was pulmonary respiratory failure and acute bronchitis.
Allyson starred with Elizabeth Taylor in 1949’s Little Women and played James Stewart’s wife in The Stratton Story (1949), The Glenn Miller Story (1953) and Strategic Air Command (1955). She and Stewart were considered the screen’s perfect couple.
Allyson, born Ella Geisman in the Bronx, explained her appeal in a 1986 interview. “I have big teeth,” she said. “I lisp. My eyes disappear when I smile. My voice is funny. I don’t sing like Judy Garland. I don’t dance like Cyd Charisse. But women identify with me. And while men desire Cyd Charisse, they’d take me home to meet Mom.”
In 1945 Allyson married Dick Powell, a former singer and actor who’d become a major television producer and director. They raised two children, Pamela, who now lives in Santa Monica, and Richard Jr., of Los Angeles.
After Powell’s death from cancer in 1963, Allyson battled alcoholism and personal problems, marrying and divorcing Powell’s former barber, Glenn Maxwell, twice between 1963 and 1970.
Allyson wed Ashrow, a retired dentist-turned-actor, in October 1976, and toured with him in the late ’70s and early ’80s in the stage play “My Daughter, Your Son.”
In 1984, Allyson signed on as spokesperson for Depend products. According to her Web site, she at first had reservations because she didn’t suffer from incontinence “and thought it wouldn’t be right to advertise for something she didn’t need. It was her mother, suffering from incontinence, who convinced her it was a good cause and she would help a lot of people.”
In 1997, she formed the June Allyson Foundation to support research into and education about incontinence.
Besides Ashrow and her children, Allyson is survived by her brother, Dr. Arthur Peters, and her grandson, Richard Logan Powell. According to Pamela Powell, a private memorial service will be held in Ojai and a day of remembrance will be scheduled in the fall.