Virginia Leith Dies: Star Of ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die’ And Stanley Kubrick’s First Film Was 94


Virginia Leith, a model and actress who starred in Stanley Kubrick’s debut feature Fear and Desire, has died. She was 94.

She passed away in Palm Springs on November 4 after a brief illness, according to family spokesperson Jane Chalmers.

Leith met Kubrick when he was a photographer and shot her for the cover of Look magazine. Once Kubrick made the transition to film, he cast her in Fear and Desire as a “half-animal” peasant girl captured and eventually killed by a soldier played by Paul Mazursky. The 1953 war film generated lukewarm interest at the box office, and after distributor Joseph Burstyn died, it was taken out of circulation.

Kubrick was no fan of the finished product and was said to have destroyed the original negative. He released a statement through Warner Bros., calling the movie “a bumbling amateur film exercise.”

In 1954 Leith became a contract player for 20th Century Fox and landed roles in such films as Violent Saturday (1955); Toward the Unknown (1956) and A Kiss Before Dying (1956) opposite Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter and Joanne Woodward.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die – 1959 Aip/Shutterstock

A few years later, Leith appeared in her best known role, in the 1962 sci-fi thriller The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

She played a severed head in a pan in the Joseph Green film about a doctor experimenting with transplant techniques, who keeps his girlfriend’s head alive when she’s decapitated in a car crash.

Leith was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 15, 1925.

Known for her stunning good looks, the brunette beauty also appeared in a string of popular television series in the 1970s, including Baretta; Starsky and Hutch; Barnaby Jones; Police Woman and The White Shadow.

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