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Virginia Grey, 87; TV Actress Began as Child in Silent Films

August 04, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Virginia Grey, who began acting in silent films as a child, playing Little Eva in the 1927 version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and was on television from its infancy in such shows as the 1948 "Ford Theatre Hour," has died. She was 87.

Grey, who performed in more than 100 motion pictures and dozens of television shows over more than four decades, died Saturday of heart failure at the Motion Picture & Television Fund facility where she lived.

Born in Los Angeles on March 22, 1917, Grey was the daughter of film actor and director Ray Grey, who died when she was 8, and Florence Grey, who became a Universal film cutter.

One of young Virginia's earliest baby-sitters was actress Gloria Swanson. In addition to her debut role as Little Eva, Grey worked with Mary Pickford in the 1933 film "Secrets" and with others in such silent movies as "The Michigan Kid" and "Jazz Mad."

After several years of schooling, including intensive dance training, the blue-eyed and copper-haired Grey returned to the screen as a curvaceous chorine in "The Great Ziegfeld" in 1936. She also appeared with George Murphy the same year in "Violets in Spring."

Grey had leading roles in B pictures and second lead parts in a few mainstream musicals and films, including the 1943 film "Sweet Rosie O'Grady," starring Betty Grable. Her last well-known film was "Airport" in 1970.

On television, after starting out in dramatic anthologies, Grey made occasional guest appearances on such popular series as "Bonanza," "The Virginian," "My Three Sons" and "Love, American Style."

Grey never married. Information on immediate survivors was unavailable.

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