Virginia Davis in 1924
December 31, 1918|
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||August 15, 2009
Corona, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Robert McGhee (m. 1943; his death 2002)|
Davis began working for Walt Disney's Kansas City company, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, in the summer of 1924. She was hired to act in a film called Alice's Wonderland, which combined live action with animation. When Laugh-O-Gram failed and Disney moved to Los Angeles, on the basis of Alice's Wonderland Winkler Pictures signed Disney for a series known as the Alice Comedies, or Alice in Cartoonland. Disney convinced Davis' family to bring her from Missouri to Los Angeles to star in the series. During this time, Davis resided at the La Brea Apartments in Hollywood, California.
The Viennese Medley
In 1925, Davis played the role of Resi in The Viennese Medley, a First National Pictures production. The film's director, Curt Rohfeld, remarked that Davis "... has the technique of a finished artist, the unusual ability to follow direction and the disposition of an angel. Not once during the picture was it necessary for me to explain any angle twice and, with all of her mature understanding, the youthful charm still remains, making a rare and appreciated combination."
While filming The Viennese Medley, Davis signed a contract with Harry Carey and the two actors worked together in The Man From Red Gulch (1925).
The Blue Bird
Davis did voice testing for a role in Disney's first feature-length animation film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) as well as some of the little boys' voices in Pinocchio (1940), but was not hired.
Recalling her work on the "Alice" films, Davis said, "It was a great time – full of fun, adventure, and 'let's pretend.' I adored and idolized Walt, as any child would. He would direct me in a large manner with great sweeping gestures. One of my favorite pictures was Alice's Wild West Show. I was always the kid with the curls, but I was really a tomboy, and that picture allowed me to act tough. I took great joy in that."
Over the next 20 years, she went on to work at other Hollywood Studios as a child actress and, later, as a supporting actress. She sang, danced, and acted in such films as Flying Down to Rio, Vivacious Lady, Young and Beautiful, College Holiday, Song of the Islands, Three on a Match, The Harvey Girls and Weekend in Havana, among others. On several occasions, she used the screen name Mary Daily, and appeared in such films as Hands Across the Rockies with cowboy star Bill Elliott. During her Hollywood tenure, she also occasionally worked for her old boss, Walt Disney, did a vocal test for Snow White, voiced some supporting characters in Pinocchio and served a short stint in the Disney Studio's Ink-and-Paint department.
In 1943, she married Navy aviator Robert McGhee, and the couple had two daughters. During their 59-year marriage, they resided in New Jersey, Connecticut, Southern California, and Idaho. Over a 25-year period, Virginia worked as a real estate agent mostly in the Irvine, California and Boise, Idaho areas.
- Brian Sibley (21 August 2009). "Virginia Davis. Child star of the Alice comedies that launched Walt Disney's career". The Guardian.
- Douglas Martin (August 21, 2009). "Virginia Davis McGhee, Early Disney Star, Dies at 90". New York Times.
- The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story, Leslie Iwerks, Walt Disney Pictures, 1999
- "Disney Legends – Virginia Davis".
- Los Angeles Times, "New Members of Players' Club", April 20, 1924, p. J3
- Los Angeles Times, "Older Sisters' Art Emulated", August 23, 1925, p. 20
- Los Angeles Times, "Tiny Actress in Blue Bird", December 29, 1929, p. 20
- Los Angeles Times, "Around And About in Hollywood", March 24, 1934, p. 7