ginnyfan is going to try to stop being such a Donnie Downer…after this.
I found the article from the Toronto Film Society linked at the bottom of this a couple of days ago and after a quick scanning I sent the link to Danny Miller saying the following:
Our research is starting to seep into other people’s writeups on Virginia. The Mrs. Wiggs story, Renee Wild, and just the general tone are all ours. Bwahahaha!
It was true. The writer for the Toronto Film Society, reviewing its screening of PETER IBBETSON (1935), had used several things Danny and I dug up over the last two years, things that weren’t part of the Weidler record prior to the Society. The story seemed to follow our stubborn belief in Ginny, calling Ginny and Dickie Moore two of the most talented kids in Hollywood. The author made a very astute comment:
'Ginny' Weidler was a born character actress, blessed with a delightfully knowing way with a comic line, and the intelligence and sensitivity to handle dramatic ones.
I was starting to like this more and more.
Then it happened. The author had to go a use the one word guaranteed to make me write this blog entry. He used the “A” word. The cover story MGM created in order to justify sinking Virginia’s career once again reared its ugly head:
Virginia was never a great beauty, and she became a rather awkward adolescent.
MGM could have quietly put Virginia on the sideline in 1943, but instead they insisted on establishing how “right” they were by completely trashing the girl. In fact, I spent a lot of time at the end of last week trying to figure out what wrong she had committed against the studio to make them want to completely ruin her. She was awkward, they claimed; she had “outgrown her talent”, they leaked. She wasn’t pretty enough to be an ingenue. One anecdote actually had L.B.Mayer saying she didn’t have enough in one particular place to be an ingenue at MGM. She wasn’t Lana Turner, but she wasn’t Cass Daley, either. I’m also betting that by her thirties she probably looked a lot younger than a lot of those ingenues who bested her in 1943 as well, from what those who knew her say about how she held her youth.
According to the article Danny found they even said she was too hard to write for, as though she could only act in one type of role. The Paramount and RKO films, and even some of the MGMs, prove different.
On the question of her awkwardness, at fifteen she looked and acted like a very attractive fifteen year old. I saw nothing clumsy or awkward about her in her last three or four films. Off camera, she was a top notch jive dancer. She was praised in 1945 for the deft way she handled her Broadway debut in a play that was an MGM stinker. How awkward could she really have been?
And so, over seventy years later, that is still the legacy of Virginia Weidler I try to fight every day. She’s remembered as that dynamic young actress who was so good in The Philadelphia Story, then couldn’t get out of her own way three years later.
It’s conventional wisdom but, like a lot of conventional wisdom, it simply isn’t true.
Although as an adult Virginia Weidler wouldn’t talk about the movie business, her husband said it was clear to her sons she didn’t think much of it. Virginia Weidler was too nice and too classy to say anything bad about even the people who ruined her professional reputation without a moment’s hesitation.
ginnyfan isn’t so noble and takes great pleasure in how the L.B. Mayer story ended. He, too, got put on the shelf by MGM.