Virginia Bruce

Active - 1929 - 1981  |   Born - Sep 29, 1910   |   Died - Feb 24, 1982   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Musical, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The daughter of a golf-champion mother and insurance broker father, American actress Virginia Bruce entered films as a bit player and chorus dancer; she's easily recognizable as one of Jeanette MacDonald's ladies in waiting in The Love Parade (1929) and as a "Goldwyn Girl" (along with Betty Grable) in Whoopee (1931). The size of her roles increased in the early 1930s while at MGM, and in 1934 she was awarded her first major lead on loan-out to Monogram in the title role of Jane Eyre (1934), which costarred Colin Clive. Though this version of Jane Eyre would be eclipsed by the Joan Fontaine-Orson Welles remake in 1943, Ms. Bruce was charming and efficient as Charlotte Bronte's indomitable heroine. In 1936, Bruce played a character based on Marilyn Miller in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and as such was center of attention in the unforgettable "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" production number. As it often happened with actresses, Ms. Bruce was given fewer good Hollywood opportunities as she got older. She made the most of her title role in The Invisible Woman (1941), carrying virtually her entire part in this sci-fi satire with only her voice, and she gamely withstood third billing to Abbott and Costello in Pardon My Sarong (1942); but it was clear that her starring days were numbered. Bruce enjoyed solid secondary parts in such films as Night Has 1000 Eyes (1948), and was quite effective as Kim Novak's mother in her last film, Strangers When We Meet (1960). Ms. Bruce made a few enjoyable talk-show and stage appearances in the 1960s, but all but disappeared from the scene in the 1970s. Married three times, Virginia Bruce's first husband was silent screen idol John Gilbert, with whom she costarred in Downstairs (1932), an obscure but lively melodrama for which Gilbert had written the screenplay.

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