Had movie actress June Mary MacCloy lived, she would have been 104 this year and she would have had some wonderful stories to tell. Sadly, MacCloy passed away back in 2005 and it is strange, but when she died, few in Toledo probably knew it. There was a small obit printed in the Blade(ten days later)and one line referencing her early life in Toledo. Yes, June MacCloy, was a Toledo girl. A Toledo girl who made good, both on the stages of Broadway and under the lights of Hollywood. A statuesque blond actress who epitomized the glamour era of Hollywood and who probably could have and should have made an even bigger name for herself. The Scott High School graduate was also blessed(or cursed, some would say)with an unusual singing voice — so deep and rich and husky that it was very manly, but very good. Still, there were critics who believed that her voice was a liability and there were always rumors that she was a lesbian which during that era of more provincial sexual morality, may have also affected her career.
Her last movie appearance was in the Marx Brothers’ comedy Go West , released in 1940. Cast as the saloonkeeper, this Toledo native was said to be “a worthy match” for the inimitable talents of Groucho Marx who greeted her in one scene saying: “Lulubelle! I didn’t recognize you standing up”. To which she replied, with hands on her hips saying, “Vamoosh, you goose.” And then croons on stage, ” You Can’t Argue with Love”. MacCloy as Lulubelle in Go West (1941)
June Mary MacCloy’s story began just north of the Indiana state line in Sturgis, Michigan, where she was born on June 2 1909. Her family, however moved to Toledo when she was still a girl, to a home in the 1400 block of Franklin Avenue It was here that she was raised and matured into a tall and good looking girl who could turn heads with her striking beauty and a radiant smile. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, however, she left her humble home and headed to te Big Apple of New York City. It didn’t take long before she found work, and soon joined Earl Carroll’s Vanities on Broadway in 1928, however, she left the revue after complaints from her mother that her costume was too revealing. MacCloy recalled later that the outfit she wore was “basically strings of cotton candy and 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.”
McCloy’s masculine baritone voice led her next to work as a male impersonator, mimicing the style of Broadway star Harry Richman with the song “I’m on the Crest of a Wave” while playing in the George White’s long running Broadway Revue, “Scandals”, a production that launched the careers of many notables of the era. It was written in her obit that she continued working in Vaudeville and had the chance to work with the famed director Vincent Minnelli, (husband of Judy Garland and father of Liza Minelli), whom MacCloy recalled as a sadistic “nut” and a perfectionist with a “sexual craving for his own kind”.
Here is video clip of MacCloy singing with Big Crosby and BeBe Daniels in Very Wild Party from 1931
Her film career began in 1931 when MacCloy made her first feature film “Reaching for the Moon“, with Douglas Fairbanks Senior, Bebe Daniels and a very young Bing Crosby. She had arrived in Hollywood in the fall of 1930. On September 18, 1930, The Toledo News Bee carried a story and picture of the young and promising hometown girl as she traveled by train from New York to her new home in Hollywood. She made a quick stop in Toledo that week to visit with family after siging a $12,000 contract with Paramount to begin her career in the movies. The New Bee says that MacCloy was the first Toledo woman to ever do a talking motion picture.
After her silver screen debut in “Reaching for the Moon”, she would go on to some success and notice in Ring Lardner and George Kaufman’s “June Moon” with Frances Dee and Jack Oakie. This movie could have been her big break, but the picture did not live up to its billing and MacCloy’s career never seemed to get the traction it needed to develop a full potential. In fact, most of her films are rarely available anymore for viewing with the exception of the Marx classic “Go West”. Also on her resume is “The Big Gamble” which starred Bill Boyd and ZaSu Pitts, then and a series of comedies for RKO- and a series of radio shorts. MacCloy did have her moments in the big spotlight. In 1932 she sang Little Old New York in Lorenz Ziegfeld’s last Broadway production, Hot-Cha!, and also sang with several touring bands of the 1930’s.
During her career in Hollywood and on Broadway, the stunning MacCloy was a favorite of the gossip columnists and the show biz tabloids. She was so good looking, there were always plenty of stories about her army of admirers. She said in later interviews that many men at that time proposed marriage with the lure of money and diamonds. One of those men was Jimmy Whiting, a multi-milionaire playboy type in Hollywood who tried putting a ring on MacCloy’s finger. There was little doubt that he had plenty of money to employ in his campaign for marriage and on one occasion – he even arranged a flight in a plane filled with rose petals. But it was not to be. For Whiting’s chief rival for MacCloy’s heart turned out to be a Toledo boy by the name of Charles Schuyler Schenck who had also moved out to Hollywood’s budding film colony in the late 1920’s where he was doing some writing and playing music. Schenk was the grandson of a former bank president in Toledo. While he was not quite as rich as Jimmy Whiting, he was was very handsome and it was Schenck who eventually won over MacCloy’s affections with his easy going style and Midwestern personality. He and MacCloy drove to Yuma Arizona where they eloped in November of 1931. The Toledo News Bee headlined the story “June MacCloy Chooses Love Over Riches”, framing it as a cupid wins the day type story line, but this too proved to be just another Hollywood script headed for the scrapheap of memory. The marriage to Schenck lasted only a few years. And by 1933, MacCloy was still a tender 24 years of age and had already been married and divorced 3 times. It was the stuff of which gossip columns are made. The first of her union was to an Atlantic City man by the name Robert Forrester in 1928, which according to the Toledo News Bee had been annulled on application by MacCloy’s mother within a year. Then the actress then married a Cincinnati film salesman, Wilbur Guthlein whom she divorced in 1931 to marry Schenck. The man who did eventually win her heart for the long term was Neal Wendell Butler, a California architect who shared her love of jazz music and with whom she had two children. After her marriage in 1941, she retired from show business and made her home in Southern California with her husband who died in 1985, and where Toledo first female motion picture star died at the age of 95 on May 5th, 2005.
Here is a video of MacCloy from a movie in 1932 where she is singing in a night club…long intro..she begins singing about :55 into the clip.
If anyone who reads this has any information about MacCloy’s family from Toledo, I’m eager to get in touch with them to see what else they might be able to share with us about her life in later years after she left show biz. It is also this writer’s opinion that perhaps there should be some public acknowledgement of MacCloy’s life and history in her home town of Toledo. Seems curious that MacCloy fell into such local obscurity once her bright and shiny star fell from the Hollywood heavens.