Virginia O'Brien

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Virginia O'Brien (born Virginia Lee O'Brien April 18, 1919 in Los Angeles, died January 16, 2001), was an American singer and actress best known for playing supporting roles in MGM musicals in the 1940s, and for her unusual singing style.

O'Brien's dark good looks belied the fact that she primarily performed comedy roles during the height of her career. This was in part due to her intentionally humorous singing style, which involved her singing with no facial expressions and very little movement - reportedly she stumbled upon this "gimmick" by accident during a stage show when she became virtually paralyzed with stage fright before singing a number. The audience found the performance to be hilarious and she was soon hired to repeat this performance in a number of movies beginning in 1940 for which she gained the nicknames "Frozen Face" and "Miss Ice Glacier" among others. It should be noted that when she wasn't singing, her acting style was just as emotive as other actresses, and she didn't always employ her gimmick when singing as evidenced by her performance in the excerpt from Show Boat in the 1946 film Till the Clouds Roll By.

Among the films she appeared in during her time at MGM were The Big Store (1941) with the Marx Brothers, Ship Ahoy (1942) with Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton, Thousands Cheer (in which she endured ribbing from Mickey Rooney about her singing style), Du Barry Was a Lady (with Skelton and Lucille Ball), The Harvey Girls (with Judy Garland) and Ziegfeld Follies. After appearing once again with Red Skelton in 1947's, Merton of the Movies, and after a guest appearance the following year in the short Musical Merry-Go-Round, O'Brien was suddenly dropped from her MGM film contract and she moved into television and back to live performances. In 1984 she created a cabaret act saluting her career with MGM and this was recorded at the Masquer's Club in Hollywood, subsequently released as a Compact Disc and then with iTunes.

She only made two film appearances after this: Francis in the Navy and the 1976 Walt Disney Studios comedy, Gus. She continued to perform well into the 1980s with both a one-woman show and a production of Show Boat.

Mini Biography from

written by Bill Takacs
Virginia O'Brien at the Internet Movie Database

Known to classic film fans by various nicknames--including Miss Deadpan, Miss Red Hot Frozen Face, and Miss Ice Glacier--this statuesque, dark-haired singer/actress carved a unique niche for herself on stage and screen by the hilarious Sphinx-like way she delivered a song. The daughter of the captain of detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department, Virginia Lee O'Brien became interested in music and dance at an early age (it didn't hurt her career chances that her uncle was noted film director Lloyd Bacon). Her big show-business break came in 1939 after she secured a singing role in the L.A. production of the musical/comedy "Meet the People". On opening night, when time came for her solo number, Virginia became so paralyzed with fright that she sang her song with a wide-eyed motionless stare that sent the audience (which thought her performance a gag) into convulsions. Demoralized, Virginia left the stage only to soon find out that she was a sensation.

Signed by MGM in 1940, she deadpanned her way to acclaim and immense popularity with appearances in some of the studio's most memorable musicals including Thousands Cheer (1943), The Harvey Girls (1946), _Till the Clouds Roll by (1946)_ , Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Panama Hattie (1942), Ship Ahoy (1942), Meet the People (1944) and Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), performing inimitable renditions of such classic songs as "The Wild Wild West" (from The Harvey Girls), "A Fine Romance" (from Till the Clouds Roll By), "It's a Great Big World" (from The Harvey Girls), "Poor You" (from Ship Ahoy), and "Say We're Sweethearts Again" (from Meet the People).

Although too often relegated to featured songs and small supporting roles, she still managed to become an audience favorite by the sheer force of her personality, polished vocals and way with a comic quip. The latter ability is especially apparent in one of her last MGM films, Merton of the Movies (1947), in which she co-starred with Red Skelton. In 1948, after 17 memorable screen appearances for MGM, the studio unceremoniously dropped her from its roster. She returned to films only twice more after her termination from MGM, in Universal's Francis in the Navy (1955) and Disney's Gus (1976), preferring to focus her energies on television and the stage, where she delighted audiences for three more decades.

In the 1980s the still youthful beauty toured the country in a one-woman show and recorded a live album at the famed Masquers Club entitled, "A Salute to the Great MGM Musicals". One of her last significant stage appearances came in 1984 as Parthy Ann in the Long Beach Civic Light Opera's production of "Showboat", with Alan Young. She remained in semi-retirement in a large home in Wrightwood, California, for most of her later years until her death at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Woodland Hills in January, 2001.

Vern Evans (1958 - 1966) 1 child
Kirk Alyn (1942 - 1955) (divorced) 3 children
Harry B. White (contractor) (1968 - 1996)
Sister of actress Mary O'Brien.
Niece of Lloyd Bacon.
One daughter with Evans; 2 daughters and a son with Alyn.
Married to the first on-screen live Superman - Kirk Alyn.

Pin-up Gallery


Virginia O'Brien at the Internet Movie Database

External links

Virginia O'Brien at the Internet Movie Database


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