Virginia Bruce

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Virginia Bruce
Virginia Bruce 1948.JPG
Photographed for CBS Radio, 1948
Helen Virginia Briggs

(1910-09-29)September 29, 1910
DiedFebruary 24, 1982(1982-02-24) (aged 71)
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1929–1981
John Gilbert (m. 1932–1934)
, divorced
J. Walter Ruben (m. 1937–1942)
, his death
Ali Ipar (m. 1946–1951)
, divorced
Ali Ipar (m. 1952–1964)
, divorced

Virginia Bruce (born Helen Virginia Briggs,[1] September 29, 1910 – February 24, 1982) was an American actress and singer.


Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Virginia as an infant moved with her parents, Earil and Margaret Briggs, to Fargo, North Dakota. The city directory of Fargo documents that the Briggs family lived there at 421 14th Street South. After Virginia graduated from Fargo Central High School in 1928,[2][3] she moved with her family to Los Angeles intending to enroll in the University of California, Los Angeles when a friendly wager sent her seeking film work. Her first screen work was in 1929 as an extra for Paramount in Why Bring That Up? In 1930 she appeared on Broadway in the musical Smiles at the Ziegfeld Theatre, followed by another Broadway production, America's Sweetheart, in 1931.[4]

Bruce returned to Hollywood in 1932, where at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in early August she began work on the film Kongo starring Walter Huston. During production on that project, on August 10, she married John Gilbert with whom she had recently costarred in another MGM film, Downstairs.[5][6] The entertainment trade paper The Film Daily reported that the couple's "quick" wedding was held in Gilbert's dressing room on the studio lot. Among the people attending the small ceremony were the head of MGM production Irving Thalberg, who served as the groom's best man; screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart, whose wife Beatrice acted as matron of honor; MGM art director and set designer Cedric Gibbons; and his wife, actress Dolores del Río.[6] Bruce retired briefly from acting after the birth of their daughter Susan Ann, although she returned to a hectic schedule of film appearances after her divorce from Gilbert in May 1934.[7] Gilbert died two years later.

Bruce is credited with introducing the Cole Porter standard "I've Got You Under My Skin" in the 1936 film Born to Dance. That same year she costarred in the MGM musical The Great Ziegfeld. She also performed periodically on radio. In 1949, for example, Bruce starred in Make Believe Town, a 30-minute afternoon drama broadcast daily on CBS Radio.[8] Much later, in the early 1960s, the veteran actress retired from films but emerged from retirement in 1981 for a final screen appearance, portraying the title character in Madame Wang's, a "bizarre" production directed by Paul Morrissey in association with Andy Warhol.[9]

Personal life[edit]

In 1937, three years after her divorce from John Gilbert, Bruce married her second husband, American film director J. Walter Ruben, after working with him on the Western The Bad Man of Brimstone. They had one child, Christopher, who was born the year before Ruben's death in 1942. Bruce then married Turkish screenwriter Ali Ipar in 1946. They divorced in 1951 and remarried in 1952, only to divorce once again—and finally—in 1964.[9]

Bruce was a Democrat who supported the campaign of Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[10]

Bruce died of cancer at age 71 on February 24, 1982, at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital[1] in Woodland Hills, California.

Partial filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1929 Fugitives Bit Part Uncredited
Blue Skies Party guest Uncredited
The Love Parade Lady-in-Waiting Uncredited
Woman Trap Nurse
1930 Whoopee! Goldwyn Girl Uncredited
Let's Go Native Chorus Girl Uncredited
Paramount on Parade Chorus Girl Uncredited
Follow Thru Bit in Ladies Locker Room Uncredited
Slightly Scarlet Enid Corbett
Lilies of the Field Doris
1931 Hell Divers Girl Scenes deleted
1932 The Miracle Man Margaret Thornton
Downstairs Anna
Winner Take All Joan Gibson
Kongo Ann Whitehall
1934 Dangerous Corner Ann Peel
Jane Eyre Jane Eyre
The Mighty Barnum Jenny Lind
1935 Shadow of Doubt Trenna Plaice
Escapade Gerta
Here Comes the Band Margaret
Society Doctor Madge
The Murder Man Mary Shannon
Times Square Lady Toni Bradley
1936 The Great Ziegfeld Audrey Dane
The Garden Murder Case Zalia Graem
Born to Dance Lucy James
1937 When Love Is Young Wanda Werner
Between Two Women Patricia Sloan
The Bad Man of Brimstone Loretta Douglas
Women of Glamour Gloria Hudson
1938 Arsène Lupin Returns Lorraine de Grissac
Woman Against Woman Maris Kent
Yellow Jack Frances Blake
The First Hundred Years Lynn Conway
There Goes My Heart Joan Butterfield
There's That Woman Again Sally Reardon
1939 Society Lawyer Pat Abbott
Let Freedom Ring Maggie Adams
Stronger Than Desire Elizabeth Flagg
1940 Flight Angels Mary Norvell
Hired Wife Phyllis Walden
The Invisible Woman Kitty Carroll
1941 Adventure in Washington Jane Scott Alternative title: Female Correspondent
1942 Pardon My Sarong Joan Marshall
Careful, Soft Shoulder Connie Mathers
1944 Action in Arabia Yvonne Danesco
Brazil Nicky Henderson Alternative title: Stars and Guitars
1945 Love, Honor and Goodbye Roberta Baxter
1948 Night Has a Thousand Eyes Jenny Courtland
1949 State Department: File 649 Margaret "Marge" Weldon Alternative title: Assignment in China
1954 Salgin Nurse Alternative titles: Epidemic
1955 Reluctant Bride Laura Weeks Alternative title: Two Grooms for a Bride
1960 Strangers When We Meet Mrs. Wagner
1981 Madame Wang's Madame Wang

Partial TV credits[edit]

Year Title Role Episode(s)
1953 General Electric Theater Adele 1 episode
1955 Letter to Loretta Dee Norman 1 episode
Science Fiction Theatre Dr. Myrna Griffin
Jean Gordon
2 episodes
1957 The Ford Television Theatre Ruth Crest 1 episode


  1. ^ a b "Film Actress Virginia Bruce dies at 71 after long illness". California, San Bernardino. The San Bernardino County Sun. February 25, 1982. p. 10. Retrieved January 7, 2016 – via open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ "Fargoan had long career in films".
  4. ^ Virginia Bruce at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ "Here's Proof John Gilbert Is Screen's Great Lover". New York, Syracuse. Syracuse Herald. August 11, 1932. p. 12. Retrieved January 7, 2016 – via open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ a b "GILBERT'S QUICK MARRIAGE", news item, The Film Daily [New York, N.Y. (West Coast Bureau)], August 12, 1932, page 4. Internet Archive, San Francisco, California. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  7. ^ "Fourth Divorce for John Gilbert of Films". The Southeast Missourian. May 26, 1934. p. 1. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  8. ^ "Ethel Merman, Virginia Bruce In Radio Dramas". Freeport Journal-Standard. July 30, 1949. p. 3. Retrieved May 3, 2015 – via open access publication – free to read
  9. ^ a b "Virginia Bruce: Biography", Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Broadcasting System, a subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc., New York, N.Y. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  10. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  • Virginia Bruce: Under My Skin, 2008. (Biography by Scott O'Brien)

External links[edit]