Classic Movie Travels: June Knight – Los Angeles
June Knight was a celebrated Broadway and film actress, talented in singing, dancing, and acting. On-screen, her characters are energetic and vibrant—a far cry from her weak self as a child, struggling through a variety of serious health issues.
Knight was born Margaret Rose Vallikett in Los Angeles, California, on January 22, 1913, to Holley Peter and Beryl Vallikett. Shortly after her birth, their only child was faced with one devastating medical issue after another. She suffered from infantile paralysis just after her birth and contracted measles before turning two. On top of contracting measles, she was diagnosed with scarlet fever and nearly died. Though she gradually recovered, she remained weak. Soon, she faced diphtheria, a mastoid infection, pneumonia, and whooping cough, while her parents did not expect her to survive another night. By age four, she contracted tuberculosis.
Due to her infantile paralysis, Knight could not walk until age five. It was the need to build strength that essentially forced her into physical activity, opening the door to show business. She took up dance to enhance her leg muscles and began singing and dancing in public by age ten, soon taking on a lead role in juvenile theater.
Knight was also part of the children’s chorus at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, performing before screenings of Son of the Sheik (1926)and The Singing Fool (1928). She began dancing in vaudeville at age 13 and became part of “The Gingham Girls”, which went on to tour.
Soon enough, she was working on stage full-time, appearing in the dance chorus of Gold Diggers of Broadway and working with the Duncan Sisters in the prologue of their film, Topsy & Eva (1927). Shortly thereafter, she became a member of the dancing stock company at Warner Bros. Studios in 1928.
Dancer John Holland changer her name to June Knight when she became his dance partner, as it was the name of his previous partner, later leading to a court case in 1940 between the two Knights. At 19, Knight appeared in the last Ziegfeld Follies show, Hot-Cha, with Buddy Rogers and Lupe Velez. She was featured in other Broadway shows, including Take a Chance and Jubilee. In Jubilee, she introduced Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine”.
Though her film career was short-lived, she appeared in twelve films from 1930 to 1940, including the hit film Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), in which she sang and danced to “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’” with Robert Taylor.
Knight was married four times, with marriages to Carl B. Squier, Vice President of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation; Texas oilman Arthur A. Cameron; drug firm official Harry Packer; and New York Stock Exchange member Paul S. Ames.
Knight passed away at age 74 on June 16, 1987, from a stroke. She is interred next to Carl B. Squier in the Portal of the Folded Wings at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in California.
Though few, there are some places of relevance to Knight’s life and career in California.
Knight lived at 527 Patton St in Los Angeles in 1920. Here is the property today:
By 1930, she lived at 2403 Glendale Blvd in Los Angeles.
Knight has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6247 Hollywood Boulevard.
Of course, the best way to remember Knight is to enjoy her performances documented in her brief but enjoyable filmography.
–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub
Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.
Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.