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Fiona ( 2007-02-09 )
Delightful child/juvenile actress Virginia Weidler (her friends called her "Ginny") had that knowing gleam in her eye that usually spelled trouble in one form or another for anyone at arm's reach. Born in Eagle Rock, California in 1926, she was one of six children born to Alfred Weidler, an architect, and Margaret Theres Louisa, a former Wagnerian opera singer. Virginia nearly made her acting debut at age 3 in John Barrymore's Moby Dick (1930), but was summarily replaced. A year later she scored her first small movie bit in Warner Baxter's Surrender (1931) and was on her way. A very plain-looking child, RKO picked up young Virginia after it was learned that she could speak a bit of French. As a youngster Virginia was ably cast as rural tomboy types in Laddie (1935) and Freckles (1935), the latter film allowing her to do a dead-on parody of Shirley Temple. She earned her first lead in Girl of the Ozarks (1936) and showed she could easily hold her own. After a rather unimpressive stint with Paramount where they tried to groom her as a rival to Fox's bratty Jane Withers, Virginia was finally picked up by MGM and her film career blossomed. Co-starring with Mickey Rooney in Love Is a Headache (1938), she proved a natural young comedienne and precocious scene-stealer in such films as Out West with the Hardys (1938), again with Rooney, and Too Hot to Handle (1938). She could also shine in dramatic outings as she did with The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939) and Bad Little Angel (1939), but she was never a good choice for sappy roles, as demonstrated when she played Norma Shearer's whiny simp of a daughter in The Women (1939). Virginia's forte was providing comedy relief and she reached her young peak with two classic MGM films -- Young Tom Edison (1940) as Rooney's creative sister, and The Philadelphia Story (1940), as Katharine Hepburn's smart-alecky younger sis. Her tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" at the piano is just one of many memorable highlights from this vintage classic. Virginia's career started to slip away from her when the teenage Shirley Temple signed with MGM, with "Plain-Jane" Virginia abruptly bumped back to secondary status. After rather disappointing receptions to Born to Sing (1942), The Youngest Profession (1943) and Best Foot Forward (1943), the awkward teen had to face the music. And she did. Virginia left films and turned to vaudeville as a song-and-dance comedy performer, utilizing her full-scale talents as a mimic. She made her legit stage debut in "The Rich Full Life" at the John Golden Theatre in 1945, but the show closed within a month. Soon after, Virginia retired from show business, married, and had two children. She was not heard of much until her untimely passing from a heart ailment at the age of 42. After her death it was learned she had suffered from rheumatic fever as a child.
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