June Haver, who was groomed to be the successor to Betty Grable in the 1940s and was actor Fred MacMurray’s wife until his death in 1991, died Monday at her Brentwood home from respiratory failure. She was 79.
Rock Island, Ill., native started performing onstage at age 6, won musical contests and by 1936 was appearing on local radio. Touring with bands, she eventually reached Hollywood, where at 16 she was picked to join the Fox stable by Darryl F. Zanuck in 1942.
The next year she appeared in “The Gang’s All Here,” followed in 1944 by “Home in Indiana.” That led to “Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and, in 1945, “Where Do We Go From Here?,” with future husband MacMurray, as well as “The Dolly Sisters,” with Grable.
Other films include top billing in “Three Little Girls in Blue,” “Wake Up and Dream,” “Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!,” “Look for the Silver Lining” (for Warners, along with “The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady”) and “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.”
Upset after a brief 1947-48 marriage and the death of her subsequent fiance, the devout Catholic announced before 1953’s “The Girl Next Door” that after her contract ended, she would become a nun. She did enter a convent, but stayed only a few months and reunited with the recently widowed MacMurray, who became her second husband. The couple later adopted twins.
Haver’s last appearance before the cameras was to portray herself briefly on TV’s “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” in the late 1950s, with MacMurray.
She didn’t get around to joining the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences until best friends Ann Rutherford and Ann Miller prevailed upon her when she was 75.
Haver is survived by her two daughters, Laurie and Kate; two stepchildren, Robert MacMurray and Susan Pool; son-in-law Marc Gerber, trailers producer at Ignition Creative; and seven grandchildren.
Services will be private.
Memorial donations are suggested for the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills or St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica.