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Actress June Allyson Dies At 88

After graduating from a wheelchair to crutches to braces, Ella was inspired by Ginger Rogers' dancing with Fred Astaire. Fully recovered, she tried out for a chorus job in a Broadway show, "Sing out the News." The choreographer gave her a job and a new name: Allyson, a family name, and June, for the month.

As June Allyson she danced on stage in "Very Warm for May" and "Higher and Higher." For "Panama Hattie," she understudied Betty Hutton and subbed for her when Miss Hutton got the measles. Her performance led to a role in "Best Foot Forward" in 1941. She made her feature film debut by repeating her role in the MGM musical, which starred Lucille Ball.

MGM signed her to a contract, and she appeared in small roles in "Thousands Cheer" and "Girl Crazy." In "Two Girls and a Sailor" (1944), her winsome beauty and bright personality connected with U.S. servicemen. She starred in "Music for Millions," "The Sailor Takes a Wife," "Two Girls from Boston" and "Good News."

Miss Allyson appeared opposite Johnson in several films, and she was Stewart's wife in "The Stratton Story," "The Glenn Miller Story" and "Strategic Air Command."

Only once did she play an unsympathetic role, as a wife who torments husband Jose Ferrer in "The Shrike." It was a failure.

In 1945, Miss Allyson married Powell, the crooner who turned serious actor and then producer-director and television tycoon. The marriage seemed like one of Hollywood's happiest, but it was less than that, she wrote in 1982.

She began earning big money after leaving MGM, "but it had little meaning to me because I never saw the money, and I didn't even ask Richard how much it was. ... It went into a common pot with Richard's money."

The couple separated in 1961, but reconciled and remained together until his death in 1963. They had two children, Pamela, who lives in Santa Monica, and Richard Keith Powell, who lives in Los Angeles.

A few months after Powell's death, Allyson married his barber, Glenn Maxwell. They separated 10 months later, and she sued for divorce, charging he hit her and abused her in front of the children and passed bad checks for gambling debts.

On Oct. 30, 1976, she married David Ashrow, and they made their home in the wooded country above Ojai, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

It was a very peaceful time for her, Powell said, because she and Ashrow were free to travel and spend time with family and their dogs.

After her film career ended in the late '50s, Allyson starred on television as hostess and occasional star of "The Dupont Show with June Allyson." The anthology series lasted two seasons. In later years the actress appeared on television shows such as "Love Boat" and "Murder, She Wrote."

For the last 20 years, Allyson represented the Kimberly-Clark Corp. in commercials for Depends adult diapers and championed the importance of research in urological and gynecological diseases in seniors.

"Mom was always so proud of representing a product that provided such a service to senior citizens, including at that time, her own mother," Powell said.

The company established the June Allyson Foundation in honor of her work. The actress' Web site is maintained by fans, Powell said.

"For nearly 60 years, we have been hearing how much she meant to so many people from all over the world. She still gets fan mail from places like Germany and Holland. They send old photos. It was wonderful to us," Powell said.

In addition to Ashrow and her children, she is survived by her brother, Dr. Arthur Peters of Ventura and her grandson, Richard Logan Powell of Los Angeles.

A private family memorial will be held in Ojai. A day of remembrance will be scheduled in the fall, Powell said.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com