Saturday, August 4, 2012

Miss Virginia Lee Corbin

Virginia Lee Corbin, a child actress of the silent screen who died when she was only 31 years old in 1942. Such a short life for a beautiful young lady.

Virginia Lee Corbin was born Virginia LaVerne Corbin on December 5, 1914 in Prescott, Arizona. She was the daughter of Leon and Frances Corbin and the younger sister of Ruth, who also worked as an actress.

Frances Corbin was reportedly a stage actress which is probably how her daughters got in to the acting game. Frances once told a reporter that Virginia used to sleep on a bed of coats on a trunk behind the stage of the theater.

The family moved to California when Virginia was around three years old. Apparently they needed to move to a warmer climate because Virginia was sick. This very well could have been the beginnings of the tuberculosis that would kill her some twenty years later.

It isn't 100% known how she got her break into pictures. One story says she was discovered by someone working for Pathe Studios while she was performing in a hotel. Another story is that her parents took the family on a tour of the studios and she was discovered there. She could have possibly even gotten noticed while watching her older sister, Ruth, performing a scene. Either way, she got noticed.

One of her first roles was in the D.W. Griffith epic, Intolerance in 1916. She appeared as a child (which makes sense since she was a child) in the ending sequence of the film, but she wasn't credited. While working under the name "Baby Virginia Corbin," she appeared in early renditions of: Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin (both in 1917), and Treasure Island in 1918.

What made her so popular as a child star was that her emotional range was quite exceptional given her age. When she was around three years old, she was able to cry on command and also sing on key. She could dance well, had a great memory, and also had an excellent vocabulary, all of which helped make her a favorite of the studios and of movie fans around the country.

Virginia did eventually grow up, something that always seems to hurt a child star. Virginia seemed to make a nice transition from little girl to a teenage flapper in the 1920s. People really seemed to love her.

Her more mature films weren't huge successes but she was a popular star. Some of the films she appeared in during this time include: 1924's Wine of Youth with Eleanor Boardman, Zasu Pitts, and Billy Haines, and Broken Laws also in 1924. The latter film was produced by Dorothy Davenport, the widow of screen star, Wallace Reid. The film was another one of her "moral" pictures that she released after her husband's death from the effects of morphine addiction.

Unfortunately, she was not one of the stars of the silent screen that made the transition into talking pictures. So, she took a very early retirement and only came back to make a few pictures in the 1930s. Her last film role was in 1931 in X Marks the Spot. Interestingly enough, she once told reporters that she thought she would have a great career in talkies if she started speaking in an English accent. Hmmm...

It seemed she disappeared after her last film. She kept talking about making a comeback in films, but then she just seemed to fade away.

Colleen Moore and Virginia

Virginia Lee Corbin passed away on June 5, 1942 in Winfield, Illinois. She outlived her mother and her sister. Her father passed away in her teens.

She is buried at the Westlawn Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.

Virginia was one of those exceptional people that managed to cram a lot of life in only a short lifespan. She was first married to a stockbroker named Theodore Elwood Krol in 1929. They had a son, Phillip Harold in 1932, and a second son, Robert Lee in 1935. The next year, in 1936, it seemed that there was trouble in paradise for the couple. According to an article published back then, Theodore filed for divorce and for custody of the boys, saying that Virginia drank too much and was not a fit mother for their children. They tried to work things out, but within a few months, they were back in divorce court. When Virginia later admitted in court that she had hit and kicked Theodore, she gave up the fight and refused alimony from him and also gave him full custody of the kids.

She married soon after the divorce was final, to another broken named Charles Jacobson. I am not sure if they were still married, divorced, or separated at the time of her death. It seems that Theodore Krol's family was with Virginia when she died, so who knows what the situation was.

Another nickname of hers was "Dresden Doll of the Movies."

It seems that Frances Cobin was a bit of a stage mother. According to reports at the time, Virginia asked the courts to appoint another woman (a Helen Kyser) to be her guardian, claiming that her mother was unfit for the role. Apparently, Virginia would try and run away from home to get away from her mother but then her mother would file a police report and Virginia would be declared "MISSING" or "RUNAWAY." The added publicity did not help the situation as you can imagine. According to a Pittsburgh Press article from May 1929, Frances Corbin had previously attempted suicide and Virginia had filed a document to have her mother declared insane, but she did eventually withrew it.

"Death came unexpectedly in Chicago yesterday to Virginia Lee Corbin, who once won millions of hearts as a child star in silent films." ~~ obituary notice

** a lot of information about Virginia came from a page that hosts her biography written by a Ted Lussier Check it out


  1. Great work Miss Keaton. I had never heard of her. I thought only Milton Sills was buried by my house. I know exactly where she's at. I fairness to her the 27 was not self-induced. Thanks.

  2. Thank my dear Billy. Where are your grave pictures pray tell? I think she is buried in the same cemetery as Jack Ruby, but I could be wrong...

    And I agree, thank goodness her death wasn't brought on by living the rock and roll life.

  3. A lovely write up. If I may say not only did she miss the 27 but actually died at age 31.

    1. Thank you, Wendy! And I am not sure what was going on with my brain when I was researching and writing this because if I just look at the dates, it is easy to see she wasn't 27. Man oh man...thank you for the heads up! I am scatterbrained sometimes :)