Virginia Gregg, Happy Birthday! a Voice Uncommon

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Virginia Lea Gregg was born March 6, 1916 to Edward Gregg and Dewey Todd, in Harrisburg, Illinois. Her family moved to California when Ms. Gregg was but eleven; first to Long Beach in 1927 and then to Pasadena in 1929. At Pasadena City College she majored in dramatics. Beginning in 1934 (she was eighteen) she debuted with the Pasadena Playhouse;[1] she would occasionally act with those resident players, garnering one lead role in her time there. Gregg attended Pasadena City College, where she majored in Dramatics; she won a scholarship at Pacific Academy of Dramatic Art, studying there for a year and a half. .[2]

Virginia’s passion was music, especially the bass viol; she played that instrument professionally for the CBS staff orchestra in Hollywood. Her love for the musical side of entertainment was sincerely inaugurated on August 24, 1936, when the Singing Strings was organized,[3] an all woman group (Virginia on bass) which hit their stride with the Hollywood Symphony of Loveliness in 1938; Gregg was twenty-two years old.[4]

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San Bernardino County Sun, San Bernardino, California, March 16, 1938

 

Circa, 1938,[5] Gregg, had her intro into radio performance by illness, not hers but the leading lady of a drama on CBS. Gregg was practicing the music bridges for the program when she heard the news of the sick actress and offered her services to the director. She was given the script and the rest, as they say, “is history;”that was her first radio role, the first of many.[6] Her voice was heard “on the air” in, Dragnet, Gunsmoke, Jack Benny, Have Gun, Will Travel, Let George Do It, Dr. Kildare, Richard Diamond, Suspense, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Philip Marlowe, and The Whistler and near countless variety-program appearances.[7]

Radio Mirror  June 1945

 

Virginia Lea Gregg and her unforgettable face, her undeniable voice (a very fine vocal talent), a stiff-backed manner, made turns in many popular Hollywood movies; she was 30 when making her first appearance in film (Notorious, 1946, uncredited).

Gregg utilized that “special voice” 25 times in her television and film career, most notably as the voices of Tokyo Rose in Torpedo Run, 1958 and that of Norma Bates in Psycho, 1960, for which she went uncredited. Gregg was never a leading actress but she was genuinely a supporting player; her portrayal of Maj. Edna Heywood RN, in Operation Petticoat is probably her most memorable role; also, she did good work in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, 1955, as Anne Richards. Virginia Gregg died on September 15, 1986, leaving a veritable void in vocalization.

 

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By C. S. Williams


[1] Daily Register (Harrisburg, Illinois) August 20, 1947

[2] Radio Mirror, June, 1945

[3] News-Review (Roseburg, Oregon) August 23, 1938

[4] San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) March 16; 19,  1938

[5] Daily Register (Harrisburg, Illinois) August 20, 1947

[6] Radio Mirror, June, 1945

[7] Old Time Radio Catalog

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