Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 15, 1925, gorgeous and talented Virginia Leith starred in all too few films, with her most productive period coming in the 1950s. Leith worked as a model before switching to acting in the early 1950s. Her first film appearance came in Stanley Kubrick's independent feature Fear and Desire (1953; with Frank Silvera). Fear and Desire was also director Stanley Kubrick's first feature-length film, which he shot on a shoestring budget of $13,000. The minimal budget did not allow for synchronized sound to be recorded when the film was shot, so it was filmed silent and later dubbed. This film is difficult to find today, as Kubrick buried it out of embarrassment later in his career, dismissing it as amateurish.

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LEFT and CENTER A: Mid 1950s magazine covers featuring Virginia Leith. CENTER B: A 20th Century-Fox photo from 1955. RIGHT: Early 1960s photo

Leith signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox in 1954. Fox cast her in such films as White Feather (1955; with Jeffrey Hunter and Debra Paget) and On the Threshold of Space (1956; with Guy Madison). After Leith's contract with Fox ended in 1957, she worked in television and some low-budget independent features. Her best known film is also my personal favorite, The Brain That Wouldn't Die, shot in 1959 for about $60,000 but not released until 1962. This film has achieved a cult status and has been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

the films of virginia leith

Fear and Desire (1953)

Virginia Leith

A rare shot of Leith from her first film, Fear and Desire

Violent Saturday (1955)

Virginia Leith and Richard Egan

With Richard Egan in the 20th Century-Fox film noir thriller Violent Saturday

A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

George Macready and Virginia Leith

From the 20th Century-Fox film noir thriller A Kiss Before Dying with George Macready

On the Threshold of Space (1956)

Virginia Leith and Guy Madison

With Guy Madison in Fox's On the Threshold of Space

Toward the Unknown (1956)

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From the Warner Bros. drama Toward the Unknown with William Holden

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)

Virginia LeithVirginia LeithVirginia Leith and Jason EversLeslie Daniels, Virginia Leith and Jason Evers

LEFT and CENTER A: Leith in her most famous role as Jan Compton (aka Jan in the Pan) from the low-budget horror flick The Brain That Wouldn't Die. CENTER B and RIGHT: With character actor Jason Evers (billed as Herb Evers) and Leslie Daniels

later years

Leith left show business following her 1960 marriage to actor Donald Harron. After her 1968 divorce from Harron, in the 1970s Leith renewed her career and appeared in a few films and on popular TV shows, such as Starsky and Hutch, Barnaby Jones, and Baretta. She left the screen again in the early 1980s and retired for good. Sadly, Virginia Leith passed away at age 94 on November 4, 2019. She is survived by her stepdaughter, film director Mary Harron.

virginia leith dvds available from


Curtains (1983) with John Vernon and Samantha Eggar
Condominium (1980) with Barbara Eden, Dan Haggerty, Steve Forrest, Richard Anderson, Ralph Bellamy, Macdonald Carey, Dane Clark, Linda Cristal, Elinor Donahue, and Don Galloway
First Love (1977) with William Katt and Susan Dey
The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962) with Jason Evers; once featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000
Toward the Unknown (1956) with William Holden, Lloyd Nolan, Charles McGraw, James Garner, and Bob Hover
A Kiss Before Dying (1956) with Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward, Mary Astor, and George Macready
On the Threshold of Space (1956) with Guy Madison, Ken Clark, John Hodiak, Martin Milner, Barry Coe, Dean Jagger, and Warren Stevens
White Feather (1955) with Jeffrey Hunter, Hugh O'Brian, Robert Wagner, and Debra Paget
Violent Saturday (1955) with Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Stephen McNally, Tommy Noonan, Lee Marvin, Margaret Hayes, J. Carrol Naish, Sylvia Sidney, Ernest Borgnine, and Billy Chapin
Black Widow (1954) with Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, and Peggy Ann Garner
Fear and Desire (1953) with Frank Silvera and Paul Mazursky

Barnaby Jones, episode Gang War, originally aired October 27, 1977
Starsky and Hutch, episode Death in a Different Place, originally aired October 15, 1977
Baretta, episode Guns and Brothers, originally aired April 6, 1977
Great Ghost Tales, episode August Heat, originally aired August 3, 1961
One Step Beyond, episode The Bride Possessed, originally aired January 20, 1959
The Millionaire, episode The Frank Harrigan Story, originally aired December 3, 1958
The Fireside Theatre, episode The Bravado Touch, originally aired April 17, 1958
The 20th Century Fox Hour, episode The Last Patriarch, originally aired November 28, 1956

virginia leith links

Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen: Virginia Leith
Visit Glamour Girls for photos and biographical information for actress Virginia Leith

virginia leith film now showing

Watch Virginia Leith's 1962 horror flick The Brain That Wouldn't Die
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This page premiered July 19, 2002.
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