Virginia Leith — whose onscreen debut came in Stanley Kubrick's 1953 film Fear and Desire — died at home on Nov. 4 "after a brief illness," Variety reports

By Jen Juneau
November 13, 2019 11:04 AM
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Actress Virginia Leith, known for her roles in movies like On the Threshold of Space and Toward the Unknown, has died. She was 94.

A spokesperson for Leith’s family, Jane Chalmers, told Variety that the actress died at her Palm Springs, California, home on Nov. 4. According to Variety, her death came “after a brief illness.”

Born Cora Virginia Leith on Oct. 15, 1925, in Cleveland, Leith spent her early working years as a waitress at a drive-in and a hat check attendant, according to her IMDb biography.

She earned her big break in 1953, starring as “the Girl” in Stanley Kubrick‘s war drama Fear and Desire. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Leith was discovered by Kubrick during his photographer days, when he shot the actress (who was then a model) for a Look magazine cover.

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Robert Wagner (L) and Virginia Leith in A Kiss Before Dying (1956)
United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock
Virginia Leith in 1956
20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett

Leith went on to land lead roles in films like On the Threshold of Space, Toward the Unknown, Violent Saturday and A Kiss Before Dying. In the latter, she appeared alongside Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner. She also starred with Wagner in the 1955 western White Feather.

One of Leith’s final film roles was in 1962’s The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, a sci-fi horror film that saw the actress portray Jan Compton, a woman whose severed head is kept alive by her mad-physician husband for the sake of his medical studies.

Virginia Leith in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

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Leith appeared onscreen four more times over the next two decades: on television in Baretta and Starsky and Hutch, and in the movies First Love and Curtains. She retired from acting after the latter film, which was released in 1983.

Although she was, at different points, romantically linked to Hollywood bigwig actors like Marlon Brando, James Dean and Frank Sinatra, according to THR, the actress was married just once, to Hee Haw actor Don Harron, from 1960 to 1968.

The couple had no children, but Leith was stepmother to Harron’s daughters Martha and Mary Harron. Mary is known for her writing and directing work on American Psycho.