Virginia Weidler (1927 - 1968)
Popular child actress of the 1930s and 1940s.
Virginia was born on March 21, 1927 in Eagle Rock, California. Her father, Alfred Weidler, was an achictect and her mother was a German opera singer by the name of Margaret Theres Louisa. The story of Virginia's acting debut is nearly legendary. She was to appear in Moby Dick (1930) with John Barrymore, but the part called for her to remove her dress on-screen, and she refused, so she was replaced. Her first part was in Surrender (1931). She appeared in a number of small parts with various studios before playing Europena, one of the children of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, directed by Norman Taurog (1934). As a result of that part, she landed a contract with Paramount Studios. Her first lead part was in the film Girl of the Ozarks (1936). By 1938, it was apparent that Paramount had no plans to develop her career, so she went to MGM. Though MGM loaned her out through most of 1939, in 1940, she played with Frank Morgan in Henry Goes Arizona, with Ann Sothern in Gold Rush Maisie, with Mickey Rooney in Young Tom Edison, and with Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story.
Her career was beginning to take off when MGM hired Shirley Temple in 1941. The two girls vied for a number of parts, but Virginia ended up getting the part with Mickey and Judy in Babes on Broadway when Shirley's mother advised her to avoid appearing with Hollywood's most popular teens for fear of being eclipsed. Her performance in Babes on Broadway won her a lead part in a pseudo-sequel, Born to Sing (1942), but that movie didn't fare well at all. In her last two films, The Youngest Profession and Best Foot Forward, she was overshadowed by Lana Turner (and other star cameos) and Lucille Ball, respectively, and failed to be noticed. Virginia turned to the stage, but had little luck there, either, and finally retired from show business in 1945. She later married and had two sons. Virginia died of a heart attack at age 41, on July 1, 1968.
Unfortunately, Virginia is one of those child actresses who just never quite made it to stardom. She's an example, I think, of what an important role luck can make in an actor's career, because (in my opinion, anyway), she was a great young actress, but just never got the big break that would move her on to stardom. Interestingly, Shirley Temple fared no better at MGM. Could it be that MGM was so preoccupied with Judy Garland that these two girls were virtually ignored? But, Virginia appeared in a total of 44 feature films, which is not a bad statistic for someone who never quite found stardom!
Original MGM publicity photo, ca. 1939
Virginia Weidler's shoulder length bob is the best coiffure for the sub-deb age. Virginia will be seen next with Edward Arnold and Marta Linden in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picture "The Youngest Profession."
(from caption on back of original MGM photo)
Best Foot Forward (MGM, 1943) The Youngest Profession (MGM, 1943) The Affairs of Martha (MGM, 1942) Born to Sing (MGM, 1942) This Time for Keeps (MGM, 1942) Babes on Broadway (MGM, 1941) Keeping Company (MGM, 1941) Barnacle Bill (MGM, 1941) I'll Wait for You (MGM, 1941) The Philadelphia Story (MGM, 1940) Gold Rush Maisie (MGM, 1940) All This and Heaven Too (WB, 1940) Young Tom Edison (MGM, 1940) Henry Goes Arizona (MGM, 1940) Bad Little Angel (MGM, 1940) The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (Columbia, 1939) The Women (MGM, 1939) picture The Spellbinder (RKO, 1939) The Rookie Cop (RKO, 1939) Fixer Dugan (RKO, 1939) The Under-Pup (Universal, 1939) The Great Man Votes (RKO, 1939) Out West with the Hardys (MGM, 1938) Too Hot to Handle (MGM, 1938) Men with Wings (Paramount, 1938) Mother Carey's Chickens (RKO, 1938) Love Is a Headache (MGM, 1938) Scandal Street (Paramount, 1938) Souls at Sea (Paramount, 1937) The Outcasts of Poker Flat (RKO, 1937) Maid of Salem (Paramount, 1937) The Big Broadcast of 1937 (Paramount, 1936) Girl of the Ozarks (Paramount, 1936) Trouble for Two (MGM, 1936) Timothy's Quest (Paramount, 1936) Peter Ibbetson (Paramount, 1935) The Big Broadcast of 1936 (Paramount, 1935) Freckles (RKO, 1935) Laddie (RKO, 1935) Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (Paramount, 1934) Stamboul Quest (MGM, 1934) Long Lost Father (RKO, 1934) After Tonight (RKO, 1933) Surrender (Fox, 1931)