Walker in a 1945 publicity photo for
A Royal Scandal
Virginia May Walker
July 31, 1908
|Died||December 23, 1946 (aged 38)|
Los Angeles, California
|Other names||Virginia Walker Hawks|
|Known for||Alice Swallow in Bringing Up Baby|
Virginia May Walker Hawks (July 31, 1908 – December 23, 1946) was an American film actress. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she studied Japanese art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and pursued a modeling career in national magazine advertisements, through which she was spotted by a Universal Pictures scout and signed to a film contract. Upon arriving in Hollywood, she met filmmaker Howard Hawks, who negotiated her release from Universal and signed her to a personal contract. She made her film debut in Hawks' Bringing Up Baby (1938), and the following year married Hawks' brother William. After their 1942 divorce, she appeared in four more feature film roles, three of them uncredited, for 20th Century Fox.
Early life and education
Virginia May Walker was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 31, 1908. She was the only daughter of William Homer Walker (1869–1912), a local attorney, and Eva M. Walker (nee Perry), originally from Paris. She had two older brothers.
Walker grew up in Boston and Cambridge; the family vacationed in Miami, Florida, during the winters. At age 10, Walker moved to Miami and eventually graduated from Miami High School. She returned to Boston to study Japanese art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, with a specialty in Japanese prints. She was a member of the Junior League of Boston.
Walker began modeling in national magazine advertisements for various companies, including a car manufacturer and a garment designer. She performed in amateur stage productions in Brookline, including dramatic plays staged by the Harvard Dramatic Club and comedies produced by the Hasty Pudding Club. Additionally, she created a skin care product which she manufactured in her home kitchen.
In 1935, Walker responded to a call for "new faces" by Hollywood filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, who sought a new actress for his production of Samson and Delilah. DeMille received 3,000 entries from around the country and chose Walker's picture together with five others for further consideration. She was ultimately not chosen for a screen test, but in June 1937, a Universal Pictures scout saw Walker's picture in a magazine advertisement for a soap product, signed her to a contract, and brought her to Hollywood.
Before the studio cast her in a film, however, Walker and a friend went to visit executives at RKO Pictures, including director Howard Hawks. Hawks recognized Walker from her magazine advertisements and wanted her to work for him. He negotiated Walker's release from Universal and signed her to a personal contract. She was one of the first actresses whom Hawks signed to a personal contract, and was loaned to RKO to appear in Hawks' 1938 film Bringing Up Baby. Walker made her film debut playing Alice Swallow, the fiancée of Cary Grant's character. She appeared in only the first and last scenes of the film.
She put aside her screen career upon her marriage in 1938, but resumed it after her 1942 divorce. In the second part of her career, she signed with 20th Century Fox and played bit roles in four films, three of them uncredited. In 1945 she was signed to appear with Jimmy Dunn in Command to Embezzle, a drama film that was ultimately shelved.
Walker died on December 23, 1946 after a months-long illness and a surgical procedure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. A requiem mass was held for her at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. She was buried with her mother in Massachusetts.
- "William H. Walker Dead". The Boston Globe. July 30, 1912. p. 14 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Births Registered in the City of Cambridge for the Year Nineteen Hundred and Eight". FamilySearch Indexing. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
- "Face May Prove Fortune (pt. 2)". The Boston Globe. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Face May Prove Fortune (pt. 1)". The Boston Globe. November 20, 1935. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- Peak, Mayme Ober (December 4, 1937). "Boston Miss in Screen Debut". The Boston Globe. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
- Peak, Mayme Ober (March 31, 1945). "Boston's Own Virginia Walker Gets Role With Jimmy Dunn". The Boston Globe. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Virginia Hawks Dead on Coast". The Boston Globe. December 24, 1946. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com.
- McCarthy 2007, p. 391.
- "Bringing Up Baby: Meet the Supporting Cast". Cine-Fille. July 31, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- "Film Actress Dies". The Decatur Daily Review. December 24, 1946. p. 15 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Virginia Walker". aenigma-images.com. 2020. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- Kennedy, Matthew (2009). Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes. University Press of Mississippi. p. 124. ISBN 9781626744325.
- "Bessie Love's Former Husband Weds Actress". The Hartford Courant. June 29, 1938. p. 4.
- "Divorces". Billboard. 54 (46): 54. November 14, 1942.
- "MRS. VIRGINIA W. HAWKS; Former Actress Left Boston Society for Film Career". The New York Times. December 25, 1946. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- "Mass Thursday for Mrs. Hawks, Former Actress". Valley Times. North Hollywood, California. December 24, 1946. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Gravestone of Virginia M. Walker". Find a Grave. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
- McBride 2013, p. 237.
- American Film Institute Catalog 1999, p. 380.
- American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States – Feature Films, 1941–1950 – Film Entries, A–L. University of California Press. 1999. ISBN 9780520215214.
- McBride, Joseph (2013). Hawks on Hawks. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813144306.
- McCarthy, Todd (2007). Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood. Open Road + Grove/Atlantic. ISBN 9780802196408.