Virginia Cherrill

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Virginia Cherrill
Virginia Cherrill in 1929
Born(1908-04-12)April 12, 1908
DiedNovember 14, 1996(1996-11-14) (aged 88)
Years active1928–1936
Irving Adler
(m. 1925; div. 1928)
(m. 1934; div. 1935)
(m. 1937; div. 1946)
Florian Martini
(m. 1948)

Virginia Cherrill (April 12, 1908 – November 14, 1996) was an American actress best known for her role as the blind flower girl in Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931).

Early life[edit]

Virginia Cherrill was born on a farm in rural Carthage, Illinois to James E. and Blanche (née Wilcox) Cherrill.[1] She attended schools in Chicago and Kenosha, Wisconsin.[2]

She initially did not plan on a film career, but her friendship with Sue Carol (who later married Alan Ladd) eventually drew her to Hollywood. She had been voted "Queen of the Artists Ball" in Chicago in 1925[1] and was invited to perform on the variety stage by Florenz Ziegfeld, an offer she declined. She found her first marriage unsatisfying, and through her friendship with Sue Carol, decamped to California where she met William Randolph Hearst,[1] went to Hollywood for a visit and met Charlie Chaplin when he sat next to her at a boxing match;[3] however, Chaplin wrote in his autobiography that she approached him on the beach wanting him to cast her in his film while acknowledging that he had met her before.[4]


Chaplin and Cherrill in City Lights

Chaplin soon cast Cherrill in City Lights. Although the film and her performance were well-received, her working relationship with Chaplin on the film was often strained. As indicated in the documentary Unknown Chaplin, Cherrill was fired from the film for leaving the set for a hairdressing appointment[5] at one point and Chaplin planned to re-film all her scenes with Georgia Hale, but ultimately realized too much money had already been spent on the film. Cherrill recalls in the documentary that she followed close friend Marion Davies's advice to hold out for more money when Chaplin asked her to return to the film.

Even before City Lights was released, 20th Century Fox signed Cherrill to a contract. Following the success of City Lights, the studio put her to work in early sound films of the 1930s, such as Girls Demand Excitement (1931), one of John Wayne's early films as a star. Big-name directors cast her in their films, such as John Ford in The Brat (1931) and Tod Browning in Fast Workers (1933). She also appeared in the 1931 Gershwin musical Delicious with Janet Gaynor. She then went to Britain where she starred in two of James Mason's earlier films, including Troubled Waters, which turned out to be her last film. None of these later films were hits, and she gave up her film career, claiming that she was "no great shakes as an actress."[2]

Personal life[edit]

Cherrill married four times. She had no children.[6]

Her first husband, Irving Adler, was a rich Chicago lawyer (not the famed scientist Irving Adler).[1] They were married in 1925 and divorced in 1928.[7]

Considerable publicity attended an engagement to the wealthy William Rhinelander Stewart Jr. (1888-1945) that was announced in July 1932.[8] The two sailed from Hawaii on Vincent Astor's yacht, on which the ceremony was planned, but returned thereafter, having broken off the wedding by mutual consent.[9]

Cherrill married actor Cary Grant on February 9, 1934, in London. She received a divorce on March 26, 1935, in Los Angeles after alleging that Grant was abusive toward her.[10]

She was married to George Child-Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey, from 1937 to 1946.

When she died, she and Florian Martini had been married for 48 years.[2]


Cherrill has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1545 Vine Street.[11]


Year Title Role Note
1928 The Air Circus Extra uncredited
1931 City Lights Blind Girl
Girls Demand Excitement Joan Madison
The Brat Angela
Delicious Diana Van Bergh
1933 Fast Workers Virginia
The Nuisance Miss Rutherford
He Couldn't Take It Eleanor Rogers
Charlie Chan's Greatest Case Barbara Winterslip Lost film
Ladies Must Love Bill's Society Fiancée
1934 Cane Fire / White Heat Lucille Cheney Lost film
Money Mad Linda
1935 What Price Crime Sandra Worthington
Late Extra Janet Graham
1936 Troubled Waters June Elkhardt
1983 Unknown Chaplin Herself TV mini-series/documentary, 1 episode


  1. ^ a b c d Louvish, Simon. "Bright Spark on the Silver Screen." The Guardian, May 9, 2009. Retrieved: December 17, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Pace, Eric (November 18, 1996). "Virginia Cherrill, 88, Actress in 30's Films, Including 'City Lights'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 28, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  3. ^ Nicholson, Juliet.Review: "Review: Chaplin's Girl: The Life and Loves of Virginia Cherrill by Miranda Seymour." The London Evening Standard, May 20, 2009. Retrieved: December 17, 2011.
  4. ^ "Obituary: Virginia Cherrill". The Independent. November 20, 1996. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  5. ^ Eagan 2010, p. 180.
  6. ^ "Virginia Cherrill". geni_family_tree. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  7. ^ "Arnstein & Lehr, The First 120 Years", (Louis A. Lehr, Jr.)(Amazon), p. 22
  8. ^ "How the Hollywood Cinderella Won the Blue Book's 'Most Eligible' Man." Olean (NY) Times-Herald, 18 July 1932.
  9. ^ Johnson, Irving. "Virginia Seceding from Jersey." Albany Times-Union, 2 December 1945.
  10. ^ "Divorces Cary Grant". The New York Times. March 27, 1935. p. 25. ProQuest 101566218. Retrieved August 18, 2020 – via ProQuest.
  11. ^ "Virginia Cherrill: Hollywood Star Walk." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved: December 17, 2011.
  • Eagan, Daniel. America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide To The Landmark Movies In The National Film Registry. London: Continuum Publishing Group, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8264-2977-3.
  • Seymour, Miranda. Chaplin's Girl: The Life and Loves of Virginia Cherrill. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009. ISBN 978-1-8473-7125-6.

External links[edit]