One of the screen's sunniest blondes, The Dolly Sisters star June Haver – who was groomed for stardom by 20th Century Fox in between its two other famous blondes, Alice Faye and Marilyn Monroe – died of respiratory failure Monday at her Southern California home, her family has announced. She was 79.
In 1953, after the failure of a brief marriage to trumpet player Jimmy Zito and the death of her fiancé, studio dentist John Duzik, due to complications from surgery, Haver turned her back on her $3,500-a-week movie career and entered the Sisters of Charity Roman Catholic convent in her native Midwest.
"I think I made the right decision to go into the convent and try it out," Haver said in 1987, as quoted by the Associated Press. "And I made the right decision to leave."
After eight months in the convent, Haver returned to Hollywood – and, at a party, ran into Double Indemnity actor Fred MacMurray, who would later star on TV's My Three Sons and in Disney's The Absent Minded Professor. MacMurray was recently widowed, and he and Haver married six months after meeting. Their marriage endured until MacMurray's death in 1991.
By that time, Haver had been retired from the screen for nearly 40 years. "I had been making movies for 10 years, and I think I got it all out of my system," she said of such '40s and early '50s musicals as Three Little Girls in Blue and Oh, You Beautiful Doll. "I made 14 musicals, which is a lot of singing and dancing. I wanted to be a wife and mother."
Haver is survived by daughters Kate and Laurie MacMurray; stepson Robert MacMurray; stepdaughter Susan Pool; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.