Discussion:
Virginia Leith, 94, 1950s actress (Brain That Wouldn't Die; Kiss Bef Dying; 1st Kubrick, Fear & Desire)
Add Reply
That Derek
2019-11-13 04:22:30 UTC
Reply
Permalink
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/virginia-leith-dead-star-brain-wouldnt-die-was-94-1254393

MOVIES

Virginia Leith, Star of 'The Brain That Wouldn't Die,' Dies at 94

6:22 PM PST 11/12/2019
by Mike Barnes

She also played the female lead in Kubrick's first feature and a woman threatened by fiance Robert Wagner in 'A Kiss Before Dying.'

Virginia Leith, who starred in Fear and Desire, the first feature directed by Stanley Kubrick, before turning in her most famous role — that of a disembodied head in a pan in the schlock classic The Brain That Wouldn't Die — has died. She was 94.

Leith died Nov. 4 at her home in Palm Springs, family spokesperson Jane Chalmers announced.

Leith also was a contract player at 20th Century Fox, where she appeared in Richard Fleischer's Violent Saturday (1955) opposite Victor Mature and Richard Egan and portrayed the sister of Joanne Woodward who falls for Robert Wagner's cunning Bud Corliss in Gerd Oswald's A Kiss Before Dying (1956).

Kubrick was a photographer for Look when he first met Leith, then a model, on a cover shoot. After a couple of documentaries, he quit his job with the magazine and cobbled together about $10,000 to make Fear and Desire (1953).

In the anti-war film, Leith appears a "strange half-animal" peasant girl who is captured, bound to a tree and eventually killed by a soldier played by Paul Mazursky. In retrospect, Kubrick was not proud of his inaugural effort, calling it a "bumbling amateur film exercise."

In The Brain That Wouldn't Die — shot in 1959 but not released by American International Pictures until 1962 — Leith stars as Jan Compton, the fiancée of Bill Cortner (Jason Evers), a demented scientist experimenting with human transplants.

After he crashes her car and Jan is killed, he retrieves her severed head and connects it to life-replenishing equipment. Now he needs a body to put the two together — and it must be shapely — so he visits a strip club, a swimsuit contest and a model's studio on his murderous quest.

Born on Oct. 15, 1925 in Cleveland, Leith worked as a hatcheck girl and drive-in waitress before becoming a model.

She also appeared in Black Widow (1954) with Ginger Rogers, White Feather (1955) with Jeffrey Hunter, On the Threshold of Space (1956) with Guy Madison and Toward the Unknown (1956) with William Holden.

In 1960, Leith married Canadian actor Donald Harron (Hee-Haw) and stepped away from show business before returning to appear on such TV shows as Baretta, Barnaby Jones, Police Woman and The White Shadow.

Reports had her romantically linked at times to Hunter, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Bob Hope and Richard Burton.

Survivors include stepdaughter Mary Harron, director of the 2000 film American Psycho.
Terry del Fuego
2019-11-13 13:49:32 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Tue, 12 Nov 2019 20:22:30 -0800 (PST), That Derek
In The Brain That Wouldn't Die — shot in 1959 but not released
by American International Pictures until 1962 — Leith stars as
Jan Compton, the fiancée of Bill Cortner (Jason Evers), a
demented scientist experimenting with human transplants.
Evers was still going by "Herb" at the time.
After he crashes her car and Jan is killed, he retrieves her severed head
Hence the original title: "The Head That Wouldn't Die". AIP was so
cheap that they changed the title at the beginning but left the
original on at the end. I have no idea why any title at all was stuck
on the end.

It's objectively a bad movie. It's also very, very entertaining.
Bryan Styble
2019-11-14 14:30:59 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Another fine catch here, Derek; I had long forgotten Leith's name, but who could ever forget "The Brain That Wouldn't Die", especially once those comedic geniuses at MST3K featured the silly flick?

But who'd guessed she'd (over time, presumably) snared Jeffrey Hunter, Francis Albert, Brando, James Dean, the former Leslie Towne and the Welshman Burton???

So keep these obscurities comin', Sir Derek, please!

BRYAN STYBLE/Florida
Bryan Styble
2019-11-14 14:51:30 UTC
Reply
Permalink
ADDENDUM: That roster of Leith's renowned showbiz romantic entanglements brings to mind a one-liner I first encountered in Joseph Heller's second novel "Something Happened" (which was almost universally-slammed by critics as hugely disappointing after his debut "Catch-22"*), but which I suspect actually dates back to vaudeville (or perhaps Henny Youngman?): "Her name was Virginia, but everybody called her 'Virgin' for short...but not for long!"

STYBLE/Florida
____________________________
* Which, as most of y'all are surely aware, was written as "Catch-18"...until Leon Uris published "Mila 18" while Heller's editor was readying it for publication, necessitating a last-second four-integer upgrade--or at least increase--in its title.
Loading...