Virginia Davis: Actress in Walt Disney's silent films

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The Independent Online

Virginia Davis, who died on 15 August aged 90, was an actress who appeared in Walt Disney's silent films. The pretty blonde four-year-old was hired by Disney in 1923 when he was starting out in Kansas City, Missouri and went on to work with him in Hollywood.

Davis was the first of several girls to have the title role in a series of "Alice" comedies that ran from 1923 to 1927. Her moving image was photographed and combined with animated cartoons.

Disney hired the youngster to star in Alice's Wonderland for his Laugh-O-Gram studio after spotting her in an advertisement for Warneker's Bread. He persuaded her parents to move out to California, where he created a series of "Alice" shorts, directed by his filmmaker brother Roy in their garage studio. Davis was filmed in front of a white cloth draped over a billboard in a vacant lot. Animated characters were later added.

She appeared in 13 "Alice" films, including Alice's Day at Sea, Alice the Peacemaker and Alice's Wild West Show, which she cited as a favorite because she got to play a tomboy who beats up the bully.

Davis later earned a degree at the New York School of Interior Design and became a decorating editor for the magazine Living for Young Homemakers. In recent years, Davis had appeared at silent film festivals, and in 1998 she was inducted as a Disney Legend by the studio.