How Virginia Weidler, the Child Star of The Philadelphia Story, Died at 41

Virginia Weidler was a talented and popular child actress who appeared in more than 40 films during the 1930s and 1940s. She is best remembered for her roles as Norma Shearer’s daughter in The Women and Katharine Hepburn’s sister in The Philadelphia Story. But what caused her premature death at the age of 41?

Early Life and Career

Virginia Anna Adelaide Weidler was born on March 21, 1927, in Eagle Rock, California, the youngest of six children born to German immigrants. Her mother was a former opera singer and her father was an architect. She made her first film appearance in 1931, when she was only four years old.

She soon caught the attention of RKO Studios, who cast her in several films as a tomboyish and spunky character. She also did a parody of Shirley Temple in Freckles, which earned her praise from critics and audiences. She was signed by Paramount Pictures, who tried to make her a rival to Jane Withers, another child star of the time.

However, Paramount did not renew her contract, and she moved to MGM in 1938. There, she found more success and recognition, starring alongside Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Bette Davis, and Judy Garland. She also became one of the few child actors who could sing, dance, and play musical instruments.

Her most famous role was as Dinah Lord in The Philadelphia Story, where she stole many scenes with her witty dialogue and comic timing. She also sang “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” at the piano, which became one of the highlights of the film. She received rave reviews for her performance and was considered one of the best child actresses of her generation.

Decline and Retirement

However, as she grew older, her career began to decline. She faced competition from Shirley Temple, who joined MGM in 1942, and other teenage stars. She also struggled with the transition from child to adult roles, and felt unhappy and dissatisfied with the quality of her scripts.

She made her last film appearance in Best Foot Forward in 1943, when she was only 16 years old. She then turned to vaudeville and stage work, hoping to revive her career. She made her Broadway debut in The Rich Full Life in 1945, but the play closed after a month.

She decided to retire from show business altogether and focus on her personal life. She married Lionel Krisel, a lawyer, in 1947, and had two sons with him. She lived a quiet and private life away from the spotlight.

Cause of Death

Virginia Weidler died at her home in Brentwood on July 1, 1968. She had apparently been bedridden for only a short time but had suffered from a long-term heart condition. According to CinemaCrush, she had rheumatic heart disease, which is a complication of rheumatic fever that damages the heart valves.

She had contracted rheumatic fever as a child, which may have affected her health later in life. Her friend and fellow actress Jean Porter said that Virginia had been ill for many years and had undergone several surgeries. She also said that Virginia had been depressed and unhappy before her death.

Virginia Weidler was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. She left behind her husband, two sons, five siblings, and many fans who admired her talent and charm. She was one of the brightest stars of Hollywood’s golden age, who left a lasting impression on film history.

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