Born March 6, 1916 as Virginia Lee Gregg, in Harrisburg, Illinois;
daughter of Edward William Gregg, a businessman and Dewey Alphaleta Todd, a musician.
came west with her parents at an early age and enrolled in the Fremont
grammar school at Fourth St. and Termino Ave., in Long Beach. Her father worked in the absorption plant of an oil company on Signal Hill.
It was while in the seventh grade at Jefferson Junior
High that Virginia remembers having the most fun. She loved sports
and excelled as pitcher on the baseball team. Her specialty was a fast curve
and Long Beach teenagers had their own particular version of the tragedy of
Casey-at-the-Bat when they stepped to home plate to face the blue-eyed Gregg
gal with the super-duper pitch.
Though she loved music she had dreamed of being an actress.
In 1943 Virginia played twenty shows a week at the studio and had to rehearse
for all of them, but she still managed to find enough time to play a few small
parts and one lead at the Playhouse. Then, one day, while her orchestra was
rehearsing the music bridges for a dramatic show at the studio, the leading lady
called up to say she was too ill to make the broadcast. The director tore his
hair. He couldn't find a replacement at the last minute. Virginia had listened
to enough rehearsals to know the script and she asked if she could read it. The
director didn't like the idea, but there wasn't anything else for him to do, so
he gave her the script.
"I was also on staff at KHJ. I broke into acting there. I
narrated one of our shows. Then they started using me on Johnny Nesbitt's "The
Passing Parade". If they needed a character, a voice, I did that. Then I did
"Rise and Shine", an early morning show with Jimmy Burton and Sam Pierce."
In 1945 she played a while in the Michael Shayne radio series.
In the 1940's Virginia seemed to be in all the
shows on the air! Her specialties appeared to be westerns (mostly in movies)
and "who-dun-its" (both radio and movies) although she was "Betty" on the
Granddad of all soaps "One Man's Family" for 9 years. She also
turned up on the popular medical series "Dr. Kildare" and the
beloved "Lum and Abner" series. She played secretary "Claire
'Brooksie' Brooks" opposite actor Bob Bailey (detective "George Valentine")
in "Let George Do It" on Mutual from 1949 to 1954. What George
did was offer to clear up cases for other people
who found them too tough to handle.
Back to the "gumshoes" as of November 1947 Virginia starred briefly as secretary "Nikki Porter" with Larry Dobkin who filled the title role in "The Adventures of Ellery Queen" (CBS).
"The Anderson Family" broadcast from 1947-1948 was a situation comedy radio program billed as a "Hollywood Broadcaster's Production". In this enjoyable family program Virginia played Mary, wife and mother next to well actors such as Conrad Binyon and Charlie Lung.
was "Helen Asher" to Dick Powell's "Richard Diamond, Private Detective"
on NBC-Radio from 1949 to 1952 then on CBS-Radio for the 1952-53 season. "Helen" was the filthy-rich Park Avenue gal who was always
trying to lure Diamond up to her gorgeous digs,
where, if he ever did have time to get there he
would head for her baby grand and burst into song!
Virginia appeared many times on the radio and TV version (2 times) of "Have Gun, Will Travel" opposite the fine actor John Dehner who starred as "Paladin". Oddly enough this show originated on CBS-Television (1957-1963) as a starring vehicle for Richard Boone and was such a smash that CBS decided to develop it for CBS-Radio (1958-1960) as well. Generally this worked the other way around: from radio to TV!
Virginia played hundreds of roles on radio and some of her best came through her joining actor/director/producer Jack Webb's stock company as a result of which she was heard in one role or another about every other week on radio's well-received "Dragnet". She was also starred in the two "Dragnet" films that were eventually made in Hollywood also in the TV series.
Besides being a well-rounded actress she could also
manage dialects. From an Irish brogue to a
Chinese "ah, so". Directors and producers delighted in her ability and
dedication to her profession. Often she was in several shows at virtually
the same time and managed them all. Where she found the time to marry and
raise 3 sons remains a mystery.
Her first film was 1946's "Notorious", directed by Alfred Hitchcock, followed by "Body and Soul" (1947) with the charismatic John Garfield. and "Operation Petticoat" with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis (1959), a tale of naval officers and crew and 5 nurses roaming the South Pacific in a pink submarine! "Gentleman's Agreement" with the elegant Gregory Peck, the tearjerker "I'll Cry Tomorrow" with Susan Hayward. "Wanted" with Steve McQueen, "Spencer's Mountain" in which Virginia played the pivotal role of "Miss Parker", the teacher who tries to get a much-needed college scholarship for one of the 9 children of the Spencers (Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara)... just to name a few.
Given her ability to change her voice to fit
a variety of dialects,... it was no wonder she was often asked as voice actor. Gregg supplied the voice of
"Mrs. Bates" in Psycho (1960) as did Jeanette Nolan and Paul Jasmin, all
uncredited. Only Gregg did the voice in the sequels Psycho II and
Virginia Gregg died on September 15, 1986, in Encino, California, USA from lung cancer.
(2) Feb 18. 2006 Old Time Radio column by the late Betsy W. (Betsy Weinberg)
(4) Remembering actress Virginia Gregg, Gillum Ferguson, Daily Register 2016
Additional video & audio sources
(1) Speaking of Radio (interview) (Audio Clip, Mar 14, 1984)
(2) Alfred Hitchcock Presents (S01E04) Don't Come back alive (Video clip, 1955)
(3) Gunsmoke (Audio clip 1955)
Latest update July 30, 2016
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