Her childhood as Baby June, vaudeville headliner, was immortalized on Broadway in the 1959 musical "Gypsy," in which both June Havoc and her older sister, Louise - who would become burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee - were driven by the ultimate stage mother, Rose Hovick, to become stars. Havoc went on to have a career in TV and films, proving to be a capable actress, even if she never reached the top ranks of Hollywood stars. Blonde-haired and blue-eyed, Havoc was best remembered for her work in the 1940 Broadway production of "Pal Joey" and for such feature films as "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), in which she played Miss Wales, the Jewish secretary of Gregory Peck who changes her name and finds herself accused of anti-Semitism.
Born Ellen Evangeline Hovick on Nov. 8, 1916, the youngster began performing in silent film shorts when she was just two years old, driven by Momma Rose Hovick. By age five, she was making $1,500 per week in vaudeville revues. She married her first of three husbands at age 13, a fellow performer, Bobby Reed. After she ran off, Rose had Reed arrested, and attempted to shoot him when he turned up at the police station. The gun failed to go off, and Reed was freed. Back to work , Havoc's vaudeville work eventually dried up and she took whatever opportunities presented themselves, including working as a model, earning money in dance marathons, as well as performing in the Catskill Mountain resorts of upstate New York.
Havoc made it to Broadway in 1936 in "Forbidden Melody," and after her success in the classic stage production "Pal Joey" - in which she appeared alongside the new dancer on the scene, Gene Kelly - Hollywood finally took notice and she managed to break into films with adult roles. In "Four Jacks and a Jill" (1941), she was Opal, the singer who quits the band thus allowing Ray Bolger to hire Anne Shirley and Desi Arnaz. She sang in the lead in her next film, "Sing Your Worries Away," but was in support of Janet Blair and Rosalind Russell in "My Sister Eileen" (1942). Havoc had a rather amusing lead opposite Joe E. Brown in "Casanova in Burlesque" (1944), playing a stripper who blackmails college professor Brown into giving her the lead in a production of "The Taming of the Shrew."
Havoc was off the screen from 1945-47, but upon her return, she appeared in the decidedly non-musical role of Miss Wales in "Gentleman's Agreement." Partly because of the role, the non-Jewish Havoc was linked with other Jewish actors who had changed their names - including Edward G. Robinson, Danny Kaye and Melvyn Douglas, among others - when Representative John Rankin of Mississippi denounced a petition against the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearing in 1947 by suggesting that these performers were less than American. Unlike some, Havoc continued to work, but now generally in non-musical supporting roles with the occasional lead. She was a gangster's widow who attempts to find his killer in "The Story of Molly X" (1949) and was in the odd British film "Lady Possessed" (1952), as a woman who thinks she is possessed by the spirit of James Mason's deceased wife. Feature films work began to peter out in the mid-1950s and it was nearly 30 years before she returned to the big screen with a small role in the monster Village People turkey, "Can't Stop the Music" (1980).
The small screen provided more opportunities. As early as 1949, Havoc had appeared on an episode of the anthology series "Fireside Theatre" and played "Anna Christie" in a 1952 "Celanese Theatre" production (ABC). She headlined the series "Willy" (CBS, 1954-55) as an attorney in a small town coping with sexism. She was also a regular panelist in the late '50s on "The Last Word," which sought to attack vagaries of the English language. By the early 1960s, her guest appearances became few and far between. She turned to talk shows, and in 1964-65, hosted a syndicated effort entitled "The June Havoc Show/More Havoc," which played on the title of her 1959 autobiography, Early Havoc. In 1987, Havoc was still going strong, appearing on an episode of "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS), and in 1990, she appeared in a brief regular role on the ABC soap, "General Hospital."
The actress also continued to work onstage. In 1963, Havoc wrote and directed herself in "Marathon '33," which recalled her years during the Great Depression. She also appeared in the national tour of "Sweeney Todd" in the early 1980s. In 1985, she appeared on the London stage in her one-person show, "An Unexpected Evening with June Havoc." After decades of working non-stop in some capacity, Havoc - who had outlived her famous sibling by 30 some years, died at age 96 after leading what could only be described as a full and colorful life.