June Collyer: From Silents to Sitcoms

Some brief acknowledgment this day for June Collyer (Dorothea Heermance, 1904-1968).

June was the older sister of Bud Collyer, who voiced the character of Superman on radio and in animated cartoons, and hosted  games shows like To Tell the Truth and Beat the Clock. Both the siblings took their mother’s maiden name for their professional surnames. Their grandfather Dan Collyer had been a stage actor for over half a century.

June broke into films during the last days of silents, playing a chorine in Broadway Nights (1927), then landing a decent supporting part in Allan Dwan’s East Side, West Side that same year. 1928 was her breakthrough year: she was voted a WAMPAS Baby Star and starred or co-starred in five features: Woman Wise, Red Wine, Raoul Walsh’s Me Gangster, and the John Ford films Four Sons and Hangman’s House. The Love Doctor (1929) with Richard Dix was her first talkie. Of her three dozen or so other credits some notable ones include Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930) with Claudia Dell, Charley’s Aunt (1930) with Charles Ruggles, Ford’s The Brat (1931) with Sally O’Neil, Alexander Hamilton (1931) with George Arliss.

After marrying up and coming star Stuart Erwin in 1931 her output slowed a great deal. As will happen, some of her last vehicles have become her best known because their entertainment value as campy B movies have kept them in relative circulation: The Ghost Walks (1934), Murder By Television (1935) and A Face in the Fog (1936).

From 1950 through 1955 Collyer was back in the limelight again as a regular on The Stu Erwin Show, a formula not unlike those of Ozzie and Harriet, George Burns and Gracie Allen, or Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone, if less well remembered. After this, she appeared in a single episode of Playhouse 90 in 1958 before retiring for good. She passed away just a few months after Erwin, in 1968.

To learn more about silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.