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Also Known As: Helen Virginia Briggs Died:
Born: September 29, 1910 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA Profession: Cast ... actor
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BIOGRAPHY

Virginia Bruce was a pretty, dreamy-eyed blonde with a vibrant soprano who seemed poised for major stardom yet never quite reached those heights, possibly because of a turbulent personal life. Her chief distinctions were playing the archetypal chorus girl in The Great Ziegfeld (1936), introducing Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in Born to Dance (1936) and, in real life, becoming the fourth and final wife of silent-screen matinee idol John Gilbert. In addition to Gilbert she appeared onscreen with such leading men as James Stewart, Robert Taylor, James Cagney, Robert Montgomery and William Powell.

Bruce was born Helen Virginia Briggs in 1910 in Minneapolis, Minn. She moved with her family to Los Angeles, planning on attending the University of California but finding film work instead. She began in movies as an extra in 1929 and received her first screen credit in Slightly Scarlet (1930). In 1930 alone she performed in 10 more films, and in 1931 mixed Broadway appearances with her screen work. She became one of the 20 original “Goldwyn Girls,” a musical stock company employed by Samuel Goldwyn to appear in musical films of the early ’30s.

It was while filming Downstairs (1932) at MGM that Bruce met John Gilbert, the star of the movie, and married him. Gilbert’s career had suffered from the advent of silent films, and he was struggling with alcoholism. The couple was divorced in 1934 after having a daughter, Susan Ann. (Gilbert died in 1936, at only 38.) Also at MGM, Bruce acted opposite Walter Huston in Kongo (1932), a well-received remake of the 1928 West of Zanzibar. At Monogram Pictures she was the first actress to play the title role in a sound version of Jane Eyre (1934), and for United Artists she played singer Jenny Lind to Wallace Beery’s impresario P.T. Barnum in The Mighty Barnum (1934).

Bruce’s banner year of 1936 at MGM with Born to Dance and The Great Ziegfeld was also the beginning of her downfall at the studio because Irving Thalberg, the young and dynamic producer who had been her mentor, died that autumn. It was said that studio head Louis B. Mayer had despised John Gilbert and transferred some of those feelings to his former wife. At any rate, Bruce’s roles began to diminish in such films as The Bad Man of Brimstone (1937), a Western in which she supported Beery, the film’s star. That movie introduced Bruce to her second husband, director J. Walter Ruben, and they remained a couple until his death in 1942. Bruce’s son by Ruben, Christopher, was born in 1941.

Bruce provides romantic interest for Melvyn Douglas in the title role in Arsène Lupin Returns and for Fredric March in There Goes My Heart (both 1938). Things looked up a bit in the patriotic musical Western Let Freedom Ring (1939), with Bruce playing opposite Nelson Eddy in a role once meant for Jeanette MacDonald; but she shares only a couple of songs, leaving Eddy to dominate. Bruce moved to Warner Bros. for Society Lawyer (1939) and Flight Angels (1940), but these were “B” pictures that did little to restore her diminishing career.

In 1946 she married Turkish film writer Ali Ipar; they divorced in 1951, remarried in 1952 and divorced again in 1964. Bruce remained active in minor film roles and, later, on television through the 1940s and ’50s. On TV she landed an occasional plum such as the title role in Mildred Pierce on “Lux Video Theater” in 1956. Her final big-screen appearance, after having made only one other movie in 26 years, was a bizarre one – Andy Warhol’s Madame Wang’s (1981), in which she plays punk-club owner Madame Wang. She died in 1982 in Woodland Hills, Calif. Author Scott O’Brien details her personal struggles in his 2008 biography Virginia Bruce – Under My Skin.

Contributions

JR ( 2007-04-13 )

Source: Wikepidia, the Free Encyclopedia

Helen Virginia Briggs, later know as Virginia Bruce, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the day of September 29th, 1910. Though born in Minnesota, she grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. In 1929, she left North Dakota to attend a womans college in California. Upon arrival to California she caught the "acting-bug" and went to MGM Studios were she landed bit-parts in silent-films and early talkies. It was while at MGM, that she meet screen legend John Gilbert, then in his decline as both a star and a human-being. They were married in 1932, and in 1933 Virginia Bruce gave birth to a daughter whom she christined Susan Ann. In 1934, Virginia divorced Gilbert. After the divorce she continued her movie career landing suitable roles in movies like The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and Born to Dance (1936). In 1939, she proved to Hollywood and the world that she was a true actress when she starred in Stronger Than Desire (1939). The film was a remake of the 1935 film, Evelyn Prentice, yet the plot was the same. It was with this film that Virginia Bruce cemented her career, playing a New York Socialite who murders her lover and uses her brains and beauty to evade her crime. In 1941, she married J. Walter Reuban, a screenwriter at MGM Studios. That same year she gave birth to a son. (The name of the offspring is unknown). In 1942, Reuban went to serve in the war and ended up dying there, leaving Virgina a widow. It was doing that war that Virginia took time off from movies to help with the war-effort by attending War-Bond Rally's, Touring with the USO, and even being a nighthostess at the Hollywood Canteen in downtown Los Angeles. The 1950s, saw her married to Ali Ipar, a Turkish film director. She was divorced from Ali Ipar for the first time in 1951 when he began his compulsory Turkish army service because Turkish law forbids commissions to men married to foreigners. In 1952, they remarried and in 1964, they divorced for the second and final time. The 1950s also saw Virginia Bruce in television, working with the Ford Television Theatre and also with the Lux Video Theatre in a television adaption of the 1945 film, Mildred Pierce, with Virginia Bruce in the title role. In the late 60s, work was hard to come by for Virginia Bruce and when the 1970s began she retired from acting. In 1981, she came out of retierment to star in the film, Madame Wang's. By 1982, her health problems had increased and on February 24th, 1982 Virginia Bruce died in Woodland Hills, California of cancer at age 71.

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