In Remembrance: June Haver
June Haver, the effervescent blond star dubbed The Pocket Grable who starred in numerous 1940s musicals including Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1944) and Look for the Silver Lining (1949), died July 4, 2005. She was 79.
June Haver was born June Stovenour on June 10, 1926, in Rock Island, Illinois. Her parents divorced while she was very young. She then moved to Cincinnati with her mother and step-father, Bert Haver. Haver first appeared onstage at the age of six for a local theatre production of Midnight In The Toyshop. She was soon winning music contests across the city. At age 10, her mother escorted her back to her hometown in order for Haver to pursue a prosperous singing career. She could be heard on local radio, and later toured with various musical groups before arriving in Los Angeles, California. Here, Haver found plentiful work in quality stage productions while attending high school.
In May 1942, Haver joined Fox Studios but was quickly dropped following the studio discovering she was only 16 years old. However the studio re-signed Haver the following year to appear (uncredited) as a hatcheck girl in The Gang’s All Here. The next year, she had a bit part in Home in Indiana, attracting the attention of studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck, who envisioned the wholesome, vivacious actress following in Betty Grable's footsteps as Hollywood's next blonde pinup girl.
Zanuck nicknamed her “The Pocket Grable” and showcased her in the musical Irish Eyes Are Smiling and the 1945 film Where Do We Go From Here? (1945) with Fred MacMurray. The teenaged Haver had quickly rocketed to stardom in the 2 years she was in the movie business. Twentieth Century Fox, at the suggestion of producer George Jessel, then cast the young actress to replace Alice Faye and star with Betty Grable in the 1945 musical biography The Dolly Sisters. The movie was a success, grossing over $4 million that year.
At the age of 20, Haver was given the top-billing in the musical Three Little Girls in Blue (1945) and I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now? (1947). She later appeared opposite Lon McAllister and a young Marilyn Monroe in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948).
Fox was quite pleased with Haver’s performances and loaned her to Warner Brothers for two of her most popular musicals, 1949's Look for the Silver Lining (as Broadway star Marilyn Miller) and 1950's The Daughter of Rosy O'Grady. It looked as though Haver would indeed fulfill the wishes of Fox to fill Grable’s shoes.
However her chances lessened when Fox began showcasing another stunning blonde, Marilyn Monroe. Haver's personal life was also unraveling quickly. She had been married once and quickly divorced, but experienced a deeper tragedy when her then-boyfriend John Duzik suddenly died. Later, during the filming of The Girl Next Door (1953), she had a bad fall and vowed that the film was to be her last.
Sure enough, after filming ended, Haver stunned Hollywood by leaving and joining a Leavenworth, KS convent as a novice nun. A serious illness forced her to leave and return to California in September 1953. She did have plans to return to the convent, but never did. She bumped into Fred MacMurray, recently widowed, at a party and they wed six months later. The marriage lasted until MacMurray's death in 1991.
No one could convince her into going back into pictures and Haver largely retired from performing; only appearing one more time, as herself with husband MacMurray, in an episode of the short-lived series The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.
- John L. Gibbon