June Preisser: The Other Babe in Arms

Like her frequent co-stars in the movies Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, June Presser (1920-1984) had a background in vaudeville.

Hailing from New Orleans, June formed an act called The Preisser Sisters with her sister Cherry circa 1929. Years of gymanastics training as children contributed to a dance act that was high in acrobatics. The girls were adept at flips, spins, twirls, cartwheels and the like. The sisters toured American vaudeville while it lasted, as well as the major music halls of London, Paris and Berlin. They also danced in the 1934 and 1936 editions of the Ziegfeld Follies and performed as a team in the film shorts Wash Your Step (1936), Play Street (1937) and Hold That Ball (1938).

In 1938 Cherry got married and left the act, but June went on to appear in over 20 feature films on her own over the next decade. In early ones she was Judy’s rival for Mickey’s affections. Most of the vehicles were musicals, and many of them showed of Preisser’s skills as an acrobatic dancer. Her films of early MGM period include Babes in Arms (1939), Dancing Co-Ed (1939), Judge Hardy and Son (1939), Strike Up the Band (1940), Gallant Sons (1940), Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary (1941), Henry Aldrich for President (1941) and Sweater Girl (1942).

In 1942, Preisser married radio personality J. Moss Terry and bore a son. That year she also returned to Broadway to appear in the show Count Me In with Charles Butterworth and Jean Arthur. When she returned to Hollywood in 1944 she was cast in the Universal pictures Babes on Swing Street, Murder in the Blue Room, and I’ll Tell the World. At Columbia she was in Let’s Go Steady (1945), directed by Del Lord, best remembered for his work with The Three Stooges. Next came a series of eight “Teen Agers” pictures for Monogram, from 1948 to 1948, opposite the likes of Frankie Darro and Freddy Stewart. This was a distinct step down from the majors, although she did appear in Two Blondes and a Redhead (1947) at Columbia. She returned to live theatre in the LA production of the Broadway hit Annie, Get Your Gun in 1948, retiring shortly after that to concentrate on teaching dance and acrobatics, and raising her young son.

Preisser and her son Richard were to remain close until the end – and beyond. In 1972, the pair moved to Florida, where they worked together at the same office supply business. In 1984, the pair were driving on a slick road in Pompano Beach during a thunderstorm, where they were both killed in a car crash.

For more on vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,