June Preston, Child Star of Hollywood’s Golden Age and Distinguished Opera Singer, Dies at 93 | Community
June Preston of the Walla Walla and Waitsburg Prestons and one of the last child movie stars of the 1930s and 1940s, a true legacy of Hollywood’s Golden Age, died on May 11, 2022 at age 93. She had battled dementia and had lived in a Montclair, New Jersey, nursing home.
A private service and burial was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.
Preston’s daughter, Sabrina Pires, said her mother’s grandfather, Platt Preston, was one of the Preston brothers significant to Walla Walla/Waitsburg history. June Preston’s father, Platt Walter Preston Sr., had the Preston-Schaefer factory and construction company that built many homes in Seattle in the 1940s and Preston Hall, Preston Park, Preston Avenue and more.
BonnieBuilders was named after Bonnie, the wife of Preston Sr.
June Preston became a world famous opera singer who sang in leading roles alongside big names such as Jan Peerce, Nicola Moscona and Salvatore Baccaloni of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
“She moved to Seattle when she was 14 and was discovered by Seattle’s beloved German conductor, Gustav Stern, who established the Opera Guild, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, with whom June Preston performed several times in her youth. Stern was her vocal coach and professor at Seattle University where she studied under him and prepared her for her career in opera,” Pires said.
She appeared in “It Happened One Night”, “Christmas in July” and “The Strawberry Blonde”.
Mike Barnes, in The Hollywood Reporter on May 17, 2022, reported that the popular child actress “has appeared in films directed by Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, Ernst Lubitsch and Raoul Walsh.”
She was born in Glendale, California on December 29, 1928. At age 3, she was spotted on the RKO studio lot and signed to a seven-year contract.
She made her screen debut as Hilda Vaughn’s daughter of Mrs. Blewett in RKO’s “Anne of Green Gables” in 1934. She appeared in a handful of other films that year, including “It Happened One Night” by Capra, which won the top five Oscars. , including the best picture.
She trained at Meglin Dance Studio in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, sang, danced and acted in shorts like “Our Gang Follies of 1938” and radio shows and was a regular at the Wadsworth Theater in West LA, Barnes reported.
She was a “rival” of Shirley Temple and a child star of Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Jane Withers, Virginia Gray and Ann Miller.
At age 9, she re-signed to RKO but often loaned out to other studios and worked with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in “Maytime” 1937 at MGM; with Dick Powell and Ellen Drew in Sturges’ 1940 “Christmas in July” at Paramount; with James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland in “The Strawberry Blonde” by Walsh, 1941 at Warner Bros. ; with WC Fields in “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break” 1941 at Universal; and with Gene Tierney and Don Ameche in Lubitsch’s 1943 “Heaven Can Wait” on Fox.
Dolls, toys, clothes and accessories of all kinds have been released in her name with merchandising deals, including “June Preston Frocks”.
Her last feature was playing Ann Rutherford’s daughter in “Happy Land” in 1943.
Two years after graduating in 1947 from West Seattle High School, she began touring. At age 24 in 1952, she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera during a South American tour in the lead role of Mimi in “La Bohème” opposite Peerce.
“Over the next decade, Preston performed at the world’s most prestigious opera houses and with symphony orchestras in the United States, Europe, and Central and South America,” Barnes reported.
Entertainment columnist Walter Winchell admired Preston, a soprano with a five-octave range who was dubbed the “Golden Voice”.
While on tour, she met the Belgian concert violinist Saul Höuben. They married in 1963 and she retired from touring to raise her daughter.
West Seattle High School inducted Preston into its Hall of Fame in 1996. President George and his wife Barbara Bush sent him a note of congratulations.
Survivors also include his daughter and son-in-law, John; and his sister Lita.