Since we last chatted, ginnyfan has continued to search for all things related to Virginia Weidler.
TB: Thanks for agreeing to do this again. I’ve been wanting to ask how the search for Virginia Weidler has changed.
GF: When I started in 2012, I knew so little and I didn’t even know how to really find out anything. People like yourself and others at the TCM forums were a big help. And I was lucky that one of the early members of the Society I started brought in Hollywood reporter Danny Miller; he’s been invaluable and is willing to ask people about Virginia while he’s interviewing them for his day job. The biggest change, though, is that progress is so much slower now. In 2012-13, Danny and I were posting 10 or 12 items from research daily. Now we may go weeks with nothing new. It has become more of just keeping Virginia and our efforts in the public eye now.
TB: What are the big things you know about her, and what still seems unclear about her life?
GF: The most surprising thing we found out was that Virginia’s father left the family in the early 1930s. Reporters and the studios always covered that fact up, they’d mention that her father was an architect working for Fox, but never mention he didn’t live with them. Virginia was truly the family’s breadwinner. A non-actor friend of Ginny’s, Pat Brown, told us that Ginny liked to go on outings with Pat and her father since she rarely saw her own.
TB: Interesting. What about her motion picture career?
GF: I wish we had a little more information about the goings on between Virginia and MGM in 1943. The newspaper accounts of the time don’t really support the long standing claim that MGM dumped her for being awkward at age 15. It seems more likely to us that Virginia had tired of the typecasting as ‘the braided brat’ then didn’t really like the roles she was given after her teen makeover, either. She and MGM bickered back and forth with each other in the Hollywood columns while Ginny did a War Bond tour after BEST FOOT FORWARD wrapped. So the parting was a two way street, but we all know who ended up winning those in the studio era. MGM just called for the ‘next gal up’ and Ginny was done. If Hollywood saw her as complaining, that might have affected future employment as well.
TB: She didn’t make any more films after she left MGM. I suppose that can be interpreted several ways.
GF: We know little about her post-movie career. She disappears from the news around 1954. After films, she played Broadway, vaudeville, did radio and even had her own local TV show in San Diego. In 1954, she and Constance Bennett served as acting coaches for a society theater group in Washington DC, both of their husbands were in the military there. I find that fascinating because she was in a scene with Bennett when she was only six years old. After that, the family went to Cuba and stayed there until the revolution came, as far as I can tell. Her husband, Lionel Krisel, was a Naval attache there.
TB: Have you ever heard from Virginia Weidler’s relatives?
GF: A couple of distant relatives have come forward, but they want to know what we know more than the other way around. Danny communicated with her grandson Jonathan Krisel briefly, but no information was obtained. He seems like a really nice guy.
TB: I wonder why they’re so quiet about her.
GF: I assume they, especially her two sons, feel they are honoring her wishes since she didn’t do any interviews after returning from Cuba around 1960. I respect that. I hope they are aware that we hold Virginia in the highest esteem and wish nothing more than to understand her life and career and to also get her some of the credit I think she has been denied.
TB: What kinds of people visit and comment on your web pages? Besides TCM, how do they see her films?
GF: Most of the people are just regular folks, as classic film fans we tend to skew slightly older than the population and probably a little more female. Interestingly, we do have one of Ginny’s cousins, a couple of children and siblings of Hollywood actors, and even one former child actor on our rolls. Most either watch TCM, or have DVDs. One recently mentioned that she owned a colorized version of YOUNG TOM EDISON! I remember seeing it in color years ago, but I thought I had imagined it.
Next: Virginia Weidler’s legacy; and what a few former costars remember about her…