Goodbye to Virginia Davis, Walt Disney’s first child star. She was the focus of his silent Alice comedies, which combined live action and animation. From 1923-25 Davis made 15 Alice comedy shorts for pre-Mickey Mouse Disney. Young Disney filmed the comedies in his uncle’s garage, recruiting curious neighborhood children whenever extras were needed. She played the precocious youngster with perfectly-formed ringlets before Shirley Temple was even born. After her Disney days, Davis continued to work in Hollywood, first as a child actress and later in a series of supporting roles, primarily in musicals. She retired from the screen in the forties. After decades as a wife, mother and real estate agent, Davis was pleased to finally receive recognition from fans and the press as Disney’s first star. In interviews she spoke highly of Disney and was happy to have played a part in the birth of his entertainment empire.
Here’s a clip from the 1924 silent Alice’s Wild West Show (which includes shots of Davis blowing smoke from a cartoon cigar and tackling a boy at least twice her size!):
To see the full-length version of Alice’s Wonderland (1923), check out this clip on YouTube.
Here’s a great interview with Davis in which she talks about Disney and her experiences playing Alice.