Happy Birthday, June Lockhart! Iconic TV Mom Turns 91

If you were a kid in the 1950s or 1960s or watched syndicated reruns of Lassie or Lost in Space any time since, you may have imagined for a moment that June Lockhart was your mom. Ever cheerful, perpetually poised, and always ready to serve up a nice slice of pie, the moms portrayed by June Lockhart were all American, even when stranded on an oddball planet in outer space.

Best known for her roles as a supportive and sympathetic matriarch, there’s more to June Lockhart than meets the eye. Lockhart attended the Vietnam Moratorium protest in Washington D.C in 1969, sang onstage at the Universal Amphitheater with Willie Nelson and was ‘den mother’ to the Los Angeles cast of the Broadway musical, Hair.

June Lockhart sat down with Phillip Harrison of KAOS2000 at the San Diego Comic Con International convention in the summer of 2000. Lockhart revealed that she’s a bit of a NASA groupie who attended several shuttle launches before the end of that space program. She called the Florida shuttle launches “The most extraordinary, physical, emotional, sentimental, patriotic experience that I’ve ever had in my life.” When Harrison noted that June always presents a “tidy everything’s fine” persona, she agreed and explained.

“I am a tidy person, and organized. I know what I’m doing. I find that my life is much simpler if I organize. I also have a kind of very mellow feeling about most stuff. If things don’t work out, then well, it doesn’t matter. It won’t matter in twenty years anyway. I’ve taken the long view.”

Lockhart got an early start in show biz. Born to actors Gene and Kathleen Lockhart in New York City on June 25, 1925, young June made her on-stage debut in a pantomime dream sequence in a 1932 Metropolitan Opera production of Peter Ibbetson when she was eight years old. At twelve, she made her first featured film appearance (also with her parents) in the 1938 MGM movie version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. According to her IMDb biography, Lockhart made a dozen movies before taking to the Broadway stage in 1947 in the comedy For Love or Money. The ingenue quickly became “the toast of Broadway” winning a Tony Award, the Donaldson Award, the Theatre World Award and an Associated Press citation.

In addition to her best known TV roles as Dr. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space and Ruth Martin on Lassie, June Lockhart appeared on shows including The Ren and Stimpy Show, Beverly Hills 90210, The Drew Carey Show, Greys Anatomy, Love, American Style, Marcus Welby, Adam-12, The Hardy Boys, Magnum PI, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Quincy, Full House, General Hospital, Babylon 5, and Roseanne.

Saturday afternoon, actor Bill Mumy wished his most memorable TV mom a happy 91st birthday on his Facebook page.

Mumy portrayed astro-adventuring preteen Will Robinson on the now legendary Irwin Allen television series, Lost In Space. Loosely based on the book Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, the plot involved a pioneering Earth family who finds themselves spaceship-wrecked on an unknown planet in a futuristic 1997. Mumy told Variety magazine that Lost in Space was “both ridiculously campy and ridiculously cool.”

When the unintentionally wacky sci-fi series made its black-and-white small screen debut in September 1965, it was not exactly lauded as upscale drama. It did amuse, however, and eventually caught on with audiences. And lest anyone pass LIS off as mere fluff, June Lockhart told NPR that more than one NASA astronaut was inspired to their adult career after watching Lost in Space as a kid.

With no space shuttle launches to attend or scripts to memorize, June Lockhart currently keeps busy as emcee of a musical project called the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic. Conducted by Gary Greene, the 75-piece symphonic orchestra has been putting on fundraising shows at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Saban Theatre, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the Shrine Auditorium and other Los Angeles venues since 2009, according to Pop Culture Addict.

[Feature photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox]