Friday, January 9, 2009

June Clyde - Sweetheart of the early talkies

June Clyde can be seen in quite a few movies around 1930. She did mostly supporting roles, characters with names like Polly, Bonnie, Tess or even Toddy. Names normally used for the peppy younger sister in the family. The older sister was always more serious and didn't have a singing voice. I guess June Clyde can be safely put in the ingenue drawer without hesitation.

Unfortunately there's not much information on June Clyde anywhere to be found. She was born as June Tetrazini in S:t Joseph, Missouri in 1909, made her debut as Baby Tetrazini in vaudeville at age seven. In 1929 she was contracted by RKO providing great legs, a pretty face, singing and spunky dancing to some of their earliest talkies. The press people at RKO called her "The Luckiest Girl In Hollywood", mostly because of those famous legs of hers.

The earliest moving images to be found of June singing and dancing is as an uncredited speakeasy singer in her second movie, the crime drama Side Street opening in September 1929. June's only appearence in it is performing Take A Look At Her Now, written by Oscar Levant and Sidney Clare. The reason this clip is quite well known today is because George Raft makes one of his rare appearences as a dancer in it. Who said tough guys don't dance?

June moved on to bigger parts and close to top billing two months later in the hot musical Tanned Legs. Much have been said about this summer resort imbroglio, but in my opinion it captures the essence of 1929 really well. Despite some obvious technichal flaws it still is quite unique as it is one of the very few surviving pictures featuring Ann Pennington (who deserves a separate post). Tanned Legs is also one of only three movies in which we get to see Broadway legend Allen Kearns. Let's have a look at some of June Clydes musical contributions in Tanned Legs. She gets the first number "Come In The Water - The Water Is Fine, also written by Oscar Levant and Sidney Clare.

In the title number Tanned Legs, June and Ann Pennington does this perky duet filled with pep and great legs. Look for the big microphone at 0:26 - 0:28, dropping down twice in the upper left corner of the picture, a very early use of an overhead microphone hanging from a boom.

The next movie June did was Hit The Deck, a part color musical starring Jack Oakie.
Unfortunately it's totally lost. The only known surviving element from it is a small portion of the soundtrack. As it is impossible to even imagine what Hit The Deck was like we move straight on to The Cuckoos, opening in May 1930. The Cuckoos is a great Wheeler & Woolsey comedy that was their return to the screen after the success with Rio Rita discussed earlier. June Clyde has a quite important supporting role and gets to do two really sweet songs together with her love interest, the quite wooden but handsome Hugh Trevor. The first number, All Alone Monday is written by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar.

The second and bigger number is Wherever You Are written by Cliff Friend and Charles Tobias. June and Hugh Trevor again, swooning and planning a secret engagement. "Gee! That's a swell idea!"

At the dawn of the thirties June Clyde met director Thornton Freeland who's claim for fame lies firmly in directing Flying Down To Rio in 1933. They married and moved to England in 1934 and June continued to work on both stage and screen in England.
Here's an example of Junes European work, taken from the British movie Dance Band released in 1935. The movie tells the story of a band contest where the leader of one band, Buddy Rogers, also a US import, falls in love with his competition, the leader of an all girl orchestra. June of course plays this all girl band leader. I suspect June's character and the all girl band was modelled after Ina Ray Hutton & Her Melodears as there is a striking resemblence in both moves (wiggle) and attitude. Buddy and June also get to do a great number together, as double pianists in love. Lovey Dovey, written by Arthur Young.

According to the sparse information I have found, June Clyde and Thornton Freeland stayed married for life. They moved back to the US and settled down in Florida. They both left us in 1987.


Anonymous said...

And here I thought I was the only June Clyde fan on this planet! You've outdone yourself again, Jonas, promoting the overlooked of early sound. Just last year I discovered DANCE BAND, and once again I thought Clyde quite a nice personality--the kind of person you'd like to actually know.

I assume she had a pretty decent life overall, even though she was not blessed with any career recognition years later; maybe it didn't matter to her.

Raquel Stecher said...

I enjoyed reading the latest installment of your Talkie magazine :-) . I really enjoyed that Come in the Water number.

I had the poster on a postcard pinned to my cubicle at work. My boss saw it and said there was a movie called "Tanned Legs"?! And I told him, yes, movies back the pre-code days were sexy! I think he was a bit shocked.

Anonymous said...

June Clyde... what a doll. She had one of the best figures in Hollywood history. (See "Come Into The Water")
I can see why she got a contract.

Anonymous said...

I would like to have a movie of her. she was my mother first couisin.

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