Virginia Cherrill

Virginia Cherrill

Virginia Cherrill in 1929
Born (1908-04-12)April 12, 1908
Carthage, Illinois, U.S.
Died November 14, 1996(1996-11-14) (aged 88)
Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1928 - 1936
Spouse(s) Irving Adler
(m. 1926; div. 1927)

Cary Grant
(m. 1934; div. 1935)

George Child-Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey
(m. 1937; div. 1946)

Florian Martini
(m. 1948)

Virginia Cherrill (April 12, 1908 November 14, 1996) was an American actress best known for her role as the blind flower girl in Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931).

Early life

Virginia Cherrill was born on a farm in rural Carthage, Illinois, to James E. and Blanche (née Wilcox) Cherrill.[1] She initially did not plan on a film career, but her friendship with Sue Carol (who would later marry Alan Ladd) eventually drew her to Hollywood. She had been voted "Queen of the Artists Ball" in Chicago in 1925[1] and was invited to perform on the variety stage by Florence Ziegfeld, an offer she declined. She found her first marriage unsatisfying and, courtesy of her friendship with Sue Carol, decamped to California where she would meet William Randolph Hearst,[1] When she went to Hollywood for a visit, she met Charlie Chaplin when he sat next to her at a boxing match,[2] although Chaplin, in his autobiography, wrote that she approached him on the beach wanting him to cast her in his film, while acknowledging that he had met her before.[3]


Chaplin and Cherrill in City Lights

Chaplin soon cast Cherrill in City Lights. Although the film and her performance were well-received, her working relationship with Chaplin on the film was often strained. As indicated in the documentary, Unknown Chaplin, Cherrill was fired from the film for leaving the set for a hairdressing appointment[4] at one point and Chaplin planned to re-film all her scenes with Georgia Hale, but ultimately realized too much money had already been spent on the film. Cherrill recalls in the documentary that she followed close friend Marion Davies's advice to hold out for more money when Chaplin asked her to return to the film.

Even before City Lights was released, 20th Century Fox signed Cherrill to a contract. Following the success of City Lights, the studio put her to work in early sound films of the 1930s, such as Girls Demand Excitement (1931), one of John Wayne's first films as a star. Big-name directors cast her in their films, such as John Ford in The Brat (1931) and Tod Browning in Fast Workers (1933). She also appeared in the 1931 Gershwin musical Delicious with Janet Gaynor. She then went to Britain where she starred in two of James Mason's earlier films, including Troubled Waters, which turned out to be her last film. None of these later films were hits, and she gave up her film career, claiming that she was "no great shakes as an actress."[5]

Personal life

Cherrill married four times. She had no children.

Her first husband, Irving Adler, was a rich Chicago lawyer (not the famed scientist Irving Adler).[1] They were married in 1925 and divorced in 1928.[6]

Her second husband was actor Cary Grant, from 1934 to 1935; she left him after seven months of marriage alleging that Grant was abusive toward her.[7]

Her third husband was George Child-Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey, from 1937 to 1946. She thus changed her legal name to Virginia Child-Villiers, Countess of Jersey.

Cherrill finally settled down with Florian Martini, a Polish airman whose squadron she had looked after during World War II.[7] He found a job working for Lockheed Martin in Santa Barbara, California where they lived from 1948 until her death in 1996 at age 88.

Cherrill has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1545 Vine Street.[8]

Partial filmography


  1. 1 2 3 4 Louvish, Simon. "Bright Spark on the Silver Screen." The Guardian, May 9, 2009. Retrieved: December 17, 2011.
  2. Nicholson, Juliet.Review: "Review: Chaplin's Girl: The Life and Loves of Virginia Cherrill by Miranda Seymour." The London Evening Standard, May 20, 2009. Retrieved: December 17, 2011.
  3. Passafiume, Andrea. "Article: City Lights." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: June 16, 2012.
  4. Eagan 2010, p. 180.
  5. Pace, Eric. "Virginia Cherrill, 88, Actress in 30's Films, Including 'City Lights'." The New York Times, November 18, 1996. Retrieved: June 16, 2012.
  6. “Arnstein & Lehr, The First 120 Years”, (Louis A. Lehr, Jr.)(Amazon), p. 22
  7. 1 2 Hennesey, Val. "The Original Good Time Girl." The Daily Mail, June 12, 2009. Retrieved: June 16, 2012.
  8. "Virginia Cherrill: Hollywood Star Walk." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved: December 17, 2011.
  • Eagan, Daniel. America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide To The Landmark Movies In The National Film Registry. London: Continuum Publishing Group, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8264-2977-3.
  • Seymour, Miranda. Chaplin's Girl: The Life and Loves of Virginia Cherrill. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009. ISBN 978-1-8473-7125-6.

External links

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