Virginia Verrill: Vocal Wunderkind

Today we sing of Virginia Verrill (1916-1999), not to be confused with Virginia Cherrill, not that you would ever do that.

Verrill was second generation vaudeville. Her mother was also a singer, and Verrill’s first stage experience came as early as age three, joining her mother onstage with the likes of Paul Whiteman and others. By age 13 she was already a professional, singing on radio, and dubbing Barbara Stanwyck’s singing voice in Ten Cents a Dance (1931). She also dubbed songs for Jean Harlow in Reckless (1935) and Suzy (1936). But she could also be seen on camera, usually as the singer in nightclub scenes. You can see her in the features The Rich Are Always With Us (1932) with Ruth Chatterton, Hide Out (1934) with Robert Montgomery and Maureen O’Sullivan, Sweet Surrender (1935) with Frank Parker and Tamara, Vogues of 1937, and 52nd Street (1937), as well as the shorts Follow the Leader (1935) with Isham Jones and his band, Study and Understudy (1936) with the Frazee Sisters, Say It With Candy (1936) with Fred Hillebrand, Fun in a Firehouse (1936) with Smith and Dale, Fun Begins at Home (1937) with Barry and Whitlege, A Musical Operation (1937), Rhythm Cafe (1938), and Styles and Smiles (1938) with Charles King. She was slated to play the lead in The Goldwyn Follies (1938) but the part eventually went to Andrea Leeds, with Verrill dubbing her voice. On radio she performed on The Jack Haley Show, College Humor, Uncle Walter’s Dog House, Maxwell Show Boat, et al. She sang live dates at posh nightclubs in Hollywood and on Broadway throughout the ’30s.

In early 1939, Verrill broke several bones in an automobile accident, possibly one of the factors leading to her early retirement. The following year she married James K. Breyley, an MCA booker based in Chicago. She retired two years after that (1942) to raise their family. She was only 25 years old, but she had been in show business for over two decadees.

For more on vaudeville and veteran like Virginia Verrill, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.