Saturday, March 30, 2013

Miss Virginia Pearson


Another reader suggestion! What is interesting about Virginia Pearson is that she was a popular screen vamp during the silent era, but when you look at her, you don't get that impression. At least I don't. In fact, I see more of a motherly figure! I want my screen vamps surrounded by skeletons, toting pet snakes, and tell tales of being born under the shadow of the Sphinx! Even if it was all BS created by the studio publicity department, it is still fun to picture people reading and believing it. 


Virginia Pearson was born Virginia Belle Pearson on March 7, 1886 in Anchorage, Kentucky. She was the eldest child born to Joseph, a railroad clerk, and Alice Pearson. Her brother, Harvey, was born 11 years later.

Oh, she was a girl after my own heart! When she was old enough to get a job, she worked at a library. Sorry, that tickled my little librarian self to read that. This was also the time she began acting on stage and traveling along the east coast.

Technically her film debut was in 1910, but since there isn't much information out there about this short film, we will say that her debut was in the 1914 film, The Stain. The film wasn't a huge blockbuster at the time but it is well known today for being one of only four of Theda Bara's pictures still in existence. She is only an extra in the film, but still, it is part of her work that still survives.


During the next few years she appeared in a number of films, including another one that later had importance years and years after it was released. The Red Kimona was a film produced by Dorothy Davenport, the widow of screen idol, Wallace Reid. Davenport began making pictures to warn the public of the dark, seedy side of life, the part of life that claimed her husband two years before this film was made. Along with Virginia, the picture also featured Priscilla Bonner and Tyrone Power Sr.

That same year (1925) Virginia appeared in two popular titles, The Wizard of Oz and The Phantom of the Opera. When the latter was restored it was also re-edited to where Virginia wasn't playing the part of Carlotta, but instead was billed as "Carlotta'a Mother." I do not know how or what they did to make that happen exactly.


Although Virginia wasn't a huge star, she was well known for her vamp image as I mentioned earlier. She was in fact nicknamed "The Screen's Heretic" and was seen as another Theda, another Valeska Suratt, mostly to scare the other vamps into obeying their studios.

After spending many, many years with the Fox Studios, Virginia decided to sever ties and start her own production company. Unfortunately, it was not a smart move and after four years, she had to declare bankruptcy.

Having lost all her money in to now defunct production company and having burned her bridges with her home studio, Virginia found herself living in a small hotel room and having to accept minor roles in films. Her last film role was in 1932, and she wasn't even given credit.


Virginia Pearson passed away on June 6, 1958 in Hollywood.

She was buried in an unmarked grave at the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery. Hopefully one day we can get her the proper headstone that she deserves.

Virginia was married once, to actor Sheldon Lewis, although I am not 100% sure when exactly they were married. I am thinking it was sometime around 1915-16, but like I said, no real idea. I do know that Sheldon was the partner of Virginia in her failed production company and that four years after they declared bankruptcy, the couple was divorced. The marriage did not produce children. Virginia and Sheldon did end up buried in the same cemetery though, both in unmarked graves, but I am not sure if they are near each other.

5 comments:

  1. I have to agree with you...I don not see the Vamp in her-more like the Vamp's naughty momma. Love this last picture of her-She could be a cougar of today:)

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    1. I agree, more naughty momma than vamp lol

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  2. HELLO JESSICA THIS IS EUGENE.LOVED THE ESSAY ON VIRGINIA.I ONLY SAW HER IN "THE WIZARD OF OZ" AND "THE RED KIMONO".I HAVE SEEN PICTURES OF HER.SHE ALWAYS STRUCK ME AS MORE MATRONLY THAN VAMPY.TOO BAD SHE DID NOT GET A BETTER BREAK IN TALKIES.I SAW "BACK STREET"(1932).SHE IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN IN IT.I DO NOT KNOW WHERE SHE IS THOUGH.

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  3. Hi, I am a cousin of Sheldon Lewis. My father knew Nathan (his real name) and he was very close to my grandmother. I have a couple letters written to her, by him.

    I think that Sheldon and Virginia are buried together. Sheldon and Virginia lived together for 30 years after their divorce. She died about 30 days after Sheldon. Unfortunately, there is nobody alive in my family who knew them as a couple.

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    1. Oh no way! How sad that nobody is around now that still remembers them. Do you have any idea why they are buried in an unmarked grave? Virginia is another actress that I would like to one day purchase a headstone for.

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