Virginia Bruce


  1. Jean Harlow, Red-Headed Woman, 1931.       One  of the original 20 Goldwyn Girls (with Paulette Goddard, Betty Grable, Ann Sothern, etc), Bruce lost out to  Harlow after…. seven tests!  The problem: too demure. MGM’s genius  production chief Irving Thalberg liked Bruce and she was one of Metro’s A Stars until she  married MGM star John Gilbert on August 10, 1932, in a bungalow on the MGM lot, and subsequently expressed the desire to get out of her contract with the studio “to become a wife.” This was her last film until 1934, the same year as her divorce from Gilbert, when she returned to the screen as Monogram’s Jane Eyre.
  2. Andrea King, The Beast With Five Fingers 1934.        For MGM’s retread of Austria’s 1924 Orlac Hnde (US: The Hands of Orlac), Claude Rains – and Virgina Bruce churned into Robert Alda-Andrea King. No one noticed as   Peter Lorre stole the entire show. Charlie Chaplin called him, cinema’s best actor.
  3. Frances Drake, Mad Love, 1934.   MGM was warned off such a brutal thriller. Instead, it calmly ear-marked Brucee and Claude Rains, before switching to Drake and Lorre’s US debut. The result was banned in various countries while others simply cut the ue of strangulation, torture and the guillotine.
  4. June Knight, The Broadway Melody of 1936, 1935.       And indeed the working title was Broadway Melody of 1935… ie after The Broadway Melody, 1928, and before 1937 and 1939. A fifth project – 1943 –  never happened. 
  5. Frances Farmer, Come And Get It, 1936.      First starring role for Frances Farmer, the stunning “bad girl of West Seattle” – where she’d entered  a newspaper contest in 1935 and won  a VIP trip to… Moscow!!!.) Virginia Bruce and Miriam Hopkins had also been seen at Paramount for the duel role of the girl (and her daughter)  caught between Edward Arnold and Walter Brennan.  Frances attended the world premiere at Seattle’s Liberty Theatre, where she’d been an usherette!  Now director Howard Hawks was saying: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that Frances Farmer was the best actress I ever worked with.”  (A matrix for Lauren Bacall later on with Hawks). Oscar stupidly did not agree. Because she was… “a trouble maker”!
  6. Jean Harlow, Saratoga, 1937.        The Harlow vehicle suddenly churned into Clark Gable-Joan Crawford… after Paramount refused to loan his future wife, Carole Lombard.  Harlow returned and,  with 90% of the film shot, collapsed on-set and died within a week from uremic poisoning. Metro completed the movie with her double, Mary Dees (voiced by Paula Winslowe), after  bad taste thoughts of a re-shoot with Bruce or Jean Arthur…  the way Crawford took on They All Kissed The  Bride, in 1942 after  Lombard’s air crash death.  By chance, the last words from the real and tragic Harlow on-film are: Good-bye.
  7. Judy Garland,  Ziegfeld Girl, 1940.        Odd MGMusical.  Monochrome, no one playing Broadway icon  Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell was busy?), and not about one girl but three. Hedy Lamarr and Lana Turner getting into all kinds of trouble while, ironically, Judy alone coping with the vicissitudes of fame.  (In the finale, recycled from The Great Ziegfeld, Judy was made up to resemble  Bruce in the earlier film’s ‘A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody’ number). 
  8. Marlene Dietrich, Kismet, 1955.       Bruce and Vera Zorina were up for the harem queen Jamilla in the much-filmed 1911 Edward Knoblock play – sheer Arabian Nights kitsch! Then, director William Dieterle had the bright idea of calling Dietrich… for her first and only MGMovie. The celebrated Goldfingered look of her sultry dance for the evil Grand Vizier Edward Arnold was invariably axed by local  US TV channels.


 Birth year: 1910Death year: 1982Other name: Casting Calls:  8