June MacCloy

Publié le par Mémoires de Guerre

June MacCloy

June MacCloy, who has died aged 95, was a statuesque blonde actress with an unusual singing voice whose most striking success was in the Marx Brothers' film Go West (1940).

June MacCloy

In contrast to the better-known and stately Margaret Dumont, who played models of scandalised propriety opposite Groucho in earlier films, June MacCloy, as the saloonkeeper in Go West, is a worthy match for him, well aware of his intentions. When Groucho greets her: "Lulubelle! I didn't recognise you standing up", she replies: "Vamoosh, you goose." With hands on hips, she appears on the saloon's stage to sing a tuneful You Can't Argue with Love in a deep, almost mannish voice. Lulubelle next sits on Groucho's knee, with a knowing wink, and concludes the song as he clings to her while they stand on a small table.

Later, she prompts one of the best one-liners in what was one of the brothers' weaker films. As she and Groucho meet again in an upstairs room, she says seductively as he starts to leave: "Honeychile." He responds: "Let's go somewheres where we can be alone. Ah, there does not seem to be anybody on this couch." Groucho recognised June MacCloy's quality, and asked her to appear in more of their films; but she told him that she wanted to be a serious actress. Go West turned out to be her last film.

June Mary MacCloy was born at Sturgis, Michigan, on June 2 1909, and was brought up at Toledo, Ohio. Tall and good-looking with a radiant smile, she joined Earl Carroll's Vanities on Broadway in 1928.

But she resigned after her mother declared that her costume was too revealing. "It was basically strings of cotton candy," June MacCloy recalled. "Mother thought one of the rich guys in the audience would rape me or something. Although that kind of thing did happen, I always managed to stay out of harm's way."

Her deep voice led her to be hired next to do an impersonation of the Broadway star Harry Richman with the song I'm on the Crest of a Wave in George White's Scandals. She also worked in vaudeville with Vincent Minnelli, whom she recalled as a sadistic "nut" and a perfectionist with a "sexual craving for his own kind".

In 1931 June MacCloy was signed by Paramount Pictures, which loaned her to United Artists, for whom she made her first feature, Reaching for the Moon, with Douglas Fairbanks Snr, Bebe Daniels and the young Bing Crosby. Her rich rendition of When the Folks High Up Do The Mean Low Down! impressed its writer, Irving Berlin. She went on to make the film June Moon with Frances Dee and Jack Oakie, which earned some praise for its amusing mixture of naivety and sophistication.

Most of her other films did not win high acclaim. There was The Big Gamble, which starred Bill Boyd and ZaSu Pitts, and a series of comedies for RKO-Pathe with Marion Shilling and Gertrude Short, which included such titles as June First; Take 'Em & Shake 'Em; Easy to Get; Only Men Wanted; Gigolettes; and Niagara Falls. Three of her shorts, made for Warner Brothers, were directed by "Fatty" Arbuckle, who used the pseudonym "William Goodrich" after being accused of raping a starlet.

In 1932 she sang Little Old New York in Lorenz Ziegfeld's last Broadway production, Hot-Cha!, with Lupe Velez and Buddy Rogers, and then had a contract with Decca, singing with the touring bands of Ben Pollack and Johnny Hamp.

Admirers proposed marriage, offered her diamonds, and even - on one occasion - a flight in a plane filled with rose petals. She was also offered some less formal relationships by married men who were not above demanding sex at the point of a gun.

Eventually she married Neal Wendell Butler, a Californian architect who shared her love of jazz and with whom she had two children. Soon afterwards she retired from the film industry, with few regrets.

Looking back on her career not long before her death on May 5, June Mac- Cloy wondered if her film career had suffered because some producers suspected - wrongly - that she was a lesbian.

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