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The tragedy of Virginia Weidler


FredCDobbs
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She was one of the greatest of all child actors. Born in 1927, she was in 44 films between 1931 and 1943.

 

But once she became a teenager, she was no longer considered attractive enough to be in films, and her career ended abruptly.

 

I?m watching her now in ?The Bad Little Angel? (1939), and at the age of 12 she?s carrying the film all by herself.

 

She died of a heart condition in 1968 at the age of 41.

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Thank you for the tribute and the photo, Fred. Virginia Weidler was a very talented young lady who deserves to be remembered. It's true that as an adult she wasn't conventionally beautiful, but had she lived longer perhaps she might have had success as a character actress.

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Fred, I only saw a few minutes of Bad Little Angel, but I thought it (and her) was

very charming. I always like her, she's my favorite child actress along with Hayley Mills.

 

She was never cloying and yet, even in her most precocious roles, never irritating, which

is tough to pull off. I think it's possible she could have at least been able to transition

into a terrific character actress. She already had the timing and skills down pat. I didn't

know she died so young.

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Is that the reason that the careers of most child stars petered out as they grew older, because they were not considered attractive enough? I thought it was the fact that the appeal they had as children no longer existed as they aged (e.g., Shirley Temple, who was certainly attractive enough as a teenager).

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There were child stars who weren?t attractive enough to become young leading ladies, but many continued to work in films for years. However, they often played comediennes and other character types. I think it?s possible that some didn?t want to go from being a serious child star to being a young lady who people laughed at. I think that might be why some got out of the business early.

 

The beautiful child actresses like Natalie Wood and Elizabeth Taylor had no problems when they transitioned into teens and young adults, but Shirley Temple did seem to have a problem because Shirley always seemed to continue to play her roles in a child-like manner, even well into her teens. For example, in ?The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer? (1947), which she made when she was 19 years old, and ?Fort Apache? (1948) when she was 20.

 

But when Lana Turner was 20, she was playing a mature, desirable, and voluptuous young fianc?e in ?Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? (1941).

 

Loretta Young started in the film business in 1917 at the age of 4, and she made 41 movies before the age of 20. When she was 20 in 1933, she played a beautiful young woman in ?Employee?s Entrance?, ?Zoo in Budapest?, ?Midnight Mary? and several other films.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> I didn't know that Loretta had started so early. Thanks.

 

Me too.

 

When I was a kid growing up in the late ?40s and during the ?50s, I saw her in a few movies and eventually when she introduced the plots of stories in her TV show. I often wondered why she was so ?famous?. Then years later I found out that her best movies and best years were in the silent era and the 1930s. She is a terrific actress and very beautiful in ?Midnight Mary? in 1933, but I never would have seen it if it had not been for TCM.

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The sad fate of Miss Weidler also reminds me of that little charmer Edith Fellows who made some wonderful appearances including her endearing role as Bing Crosby's foil in " Pennies From Heaven . " ... She had tremendous charm and talent , yet , because she was not ,as you say , " conventionaly " beautiful as she grew older her career sadly waned .

 

Miss Weidler has ALWAYS been one of my all time favorite actresses and she gave grace and impish charm and emotional dephth to every film she starred in !

 

Message was edited by: David55

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Another actress who falls into this category is Peggy Ann Garner. She won an Oscar for her role in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN and is also memorable in JANE EYRE. But her career was virtually over upon adulthood. The only adult role I recall seeing her in was THE BLACK WIDOW made for FOX in the mid-50s. When acting work dried up, sadly she worked for a while as a used car salesman. I believe she died fairly young.

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Yes, that?s sad.

 

Shirley Mills? career didn?t last long either. She was the young teen girl, Ruthie, in ?Grapes of Wrath?.

 

Her first film, at the age of 12, was the independent ?no-code? film, ?Child Bride? (1938). Her nude swimming scene was somewhat scandalous, but it didn?t harm her career. I thought she was a good actress, but she didn?t have any important roles. And then she was out of the business by age 30, with her last few roles being in early TV shows.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> Is that the reason that the careers of most child stars petered out as they grew older, because they were not considered attractive enough? I thought it was the fact that the appeal they had as children no longer existed as they aged (e.g., Shirley Temple, who was certainly attractive enough as a teenager).

 

The problem is that they wear out their welcome in the same way that the public seldom allows adult leading men and women to age into older leading man/woman parts, only character roles. There are a few notable exceptions (Cary Grant for one), but youth has always been a fairly precious commodity in Hollywood; it trumps practically every other attribute, and no one can hang onto it forever.

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FredCDobbs wrote:

<< Shirley Mills... Her first film, at the age of 12, was the independent ?no-code? film, ?Child Bride? (1938). Her nude swimming scene was somewhat scandalous, but it didn?t harm her career >>

 

I've seen that movie and its very tame. What little nudity you see is from behind, at a DISTANCE, underwater. It would make a good film for TCM Underground. It is based on actual events. The most funny part is the school room scene. How does one expect to learn in that hillbilly dump of a school with pigeons pooping on your homework.

 

Movie does have an happy ending.

 

Footnote: Don't forget how young Loretta Lynn was when she married.

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I always liked Virginia Weidler and she was one of the best child stars of the thirties and forties. A very natural actress, she never intruded on a film, but always complimented it.

 

She is wonderful to watch in *Bad Little Angel* and the film is a little known gem. Gene Reynolds, another good juvenile actor also appears in the film, but he stayed in the business and is pretty well known today for his work in television on the other side of the camera.

 

One of the things about her story that people find interesting is that we know so little of her later life. She apparently wanted it that way. She died fairly young of a heart ailment and that's it. When she left films that was that. Surely there are people that knew her in later years but any info, even in this day and age, is hard to find.

 

We know a lot of the sordid details of other child star's adult years, like Scotty Beckett for instance. Bobby Driscoll disappeared and his family turned to the Disney Studio for help in finding him. His body had been found in an abandoned tenement in New York, very near where location footage of *The Window* was shot. His performance in that film had earned him a juvenile Oscar. He was already buried as a "John Doe" in an unmarked grave in Potter's field on Hart Island in New York. Dental records later identified him but there he remains to this day. He does have a cenotaph at the family burial plot in Iowa

 

Others young actors have seemingly just vanished from the scene after their retirement. Period. We don't even know how they died. Douglas Croft who played Robin in the original Batman series and appeared in films like *Presenting Lily Mars*, *George Washington Slept Here*, *Pride of the Yankees* and *Yankee Doodle Dandy*, is another one who pretty much garnered little to no publicity after they left the business. Yet he died in his thirties, and that is pretty much all the general public knows.

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Virginia Weidler has been my favorite child actress since I first saw her. I have always wished she would of made more movies, but I am glad of the ones she did make. Heres hoping TCM shows more of her movies. Maybe another month of Child Stars as Star of the Month. TCM had this a few years ago and I was disappointed in the small amount of movies shown. More child stars please.

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Strange, I didn?t think that Virginia Wiedler would be so mentioned in that she had such a short lived career in movies. Yet, the few films she appeared in were in some regards block-busters. This is especially the case with such hits as ?The Great Man Votes,? ?Young Tom Edison,? ?All This and Heaven Too,? ?Too Hot To Handle,? ?Babes on Broadway,? ?The Women? and finally ?The Philadelphia Story.? Certainly, her time at MGM was met with some really interesting challenges for any child performer to have to face. What fascinates me about her is the way she looked in her final film at MGM, ?Best Foot Forward? in 1944. It?s hard to believe just a few years earlier she was this outlandishly funny kid in the movies and now looked and acted very different as a teenager on screen. There was no clear cut connection watching her as a teenager towards her adolescent past. Of course, the same might be said for most child performers of the movies, who are confronted with time and age. But in the case of Wiedler, she simply didn?t acquire a solid enough identity towards branching out as a teenager and possible adult roles. When her movie career went bust, she tried everything from nightclubs and the stage, all to no avail, forcing her into retirement from show business. Strange, that when television rolled around, she didn?t pursue a career there. Anything that?s been reported or written about her leaving show business doesn?t poise any sort of speculation on whether or not she was so disappointed about how her performing career turned out. Most likely she accepted the enviable and lived quietly at her home on the outskirts of Los Angeles, until succumbing to her serious heart ailment and died.

 

P R O F E S S O R

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