Helen Virginia Briggs was born September 29, 1910 in Minneapolis, Minnesota but grew up in Fargo, North Dakota.
She moved with her family to Los Angeles with intentions of enrolling in the University of California.
A lovely blond but demure, and not especially ambitious or self-promoting, Virginia was prodded by her parents, who were going through financial reversals, to skip her initial plans on a music education at UCLA and pursue film work.
According to Scott O’Brien’s biography entitled “Virginia Bruce: Under My Skin,” and his accompanying article on Virginia for Classic Images (February, 2010), Virginia was “discovered” by director William Beaudine when the young beauty accompanied her aunt, a clothing designer, to the home of a client, Mrs. Beaudine. Virginia played the piano and sang for him that day. Paramount, under Beaudine’s suggestion, took an option out on her and placed her in walk-on and bit parts, her first being Beaudine’s 1929 film Fugitives.
She then made uncredited appearances in the 1929 films; “Blue Skies,” “The Love Parade,” “Woman Trap,” and “Why Bring That Up?”
Virginia Bruce then appeared as a Chorus Girl in the 1930 films “Let’s Go Native,” and “Paramount on Parade.”
The Goldwyn Girls
Then in 1930, Samuel Goldwyn decided to create a musical stock company of female dancers he named the Goldwyn Girls.
Virginia changed her last name to Bruce and was picked as one of the original 20 Goldwyn Girls along with ladies who would also become stars such as Lucille Ball, Betty Grable, Ann Dvorak, Paulette Goddard and Jane Wyman.
Virginia then appeared along with the original Goldwyn Girl’s in the 1930 film “Whoopee!”
The same year she appeared on Broadway in the musical “Smiles” and in the “Ziegfeld Follies.”
In 1931, Virginia appeared in the Broadway show “America’s Sweetheart.”
She returned to Hollywood in 1932 where she appeared in the film “Downstairs” where she fell in love with her co-star and silent screen legend John Gilbert.
The 22 year old Virginia appeared in the 1932 films “The Miracle Man” and “Kongo” before getting married to 35 year old John Gilbert.
She even failed seven screen tests for the lead in the 1932 film Red-Headed Woman, which went to Jean Harlow.
Virginia retired briefly in 1933 to have a daughter before divorcing Gilbert in 1934 and returning to her hectic schedule of appearances.
After ex-husband John Gilbert died in 1936, she made 14 movies in 16 months.
She costarred in the MGM musical “The Great Ziegfeld” before landing a role in Cole Porter’s film “Born to Dance.”
In the film, Virginia sang the famous Cole Porter standard “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” to Jimmy Stewart.
In 1937, the 27 year old Virginia married 48 year old film director John Walter Ruben after making the western “The Bad Man of Brimstone” with him the same year.
In 1941, she had a son before her second husband died in 1942.
In 1946, Virginia married Ali Ipar. They divorced in 1951 in order for him to receive a commission in the Turkish Military (which forbade promotions of men married to foreigners), but remarried in 1952.
One of her final film appearances was in the 1960s Strangers When We Meet.
Her final film appearance was in Madame Wang’s in 1981.
Virginia Bruce died of cancer on February 24, 1982 in Woodland Hills, California.
She was quoted once as saying;
“My chief purpose in life is to fall in love. I don’t know why I want to, but I do.”
Now WE know em