R.I.P.: Virginia Leith of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

The Brain That Wouldn't Die Virginia Leith

Virginia Leith didn't do a ton of acting during her twenty-seven years in the film industry, and hadn't done any screen acting at all in the last thirty-nine years, but she did work on some notable projects. She made her acting debut as "The Girl" in Stanley Kubrick's first feature FEAR AND DESIRE, she co-starred with Robert Wagner and Joanne Woodward in the film noir A KISS BEFORE DYING, appeared on episodes of One Step Beyond, Baretta, Starsky and Hutch, and Barnaby Jones… and became a sci-fi horror icon with her role in THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE.

Sadly, it has been reported that Leith passed away earlier this month.

Filmed in 1959 but not released until 1962, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE cast Leith in the role of Jan Compton, 

the fiancée of Bill Cortner (Jason Evers), a demented scientist experimenting with human transplants.

After he crashes her car and Jan is killed, he retrieves her severed head and connects it to life-replenishing equipment. Now he needs a body to put the two together — and it must be shapely — so he visits a strip club, a swimsuit contest and a model's studio on his murderous quest.

THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE isn't a great movie, but it was featured on one of the most popular episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and the sight of Leith's talking head sitting in a pan on a table is an unforgettable one.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1925, Leith worked as a hatcheck girl and drive-in waitress before becoming a model, which led to the acting jobs. A photographer before he became a filmmaker, Kubrick met Leith while taking pictures of her for the cover of Look magazine and decided to cast her in his first movie.

Tabloids had fun speculating that Leith was romantically involved with the likes of Jeffrey Hunter, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Bob Hope, and Richard Burton back in the day. In 1960 she married Canadian actor Donald Harron, becoming stepmother to his daughter Mary. Mary Harron is a director best known for making AMERICAN PSYCHO.

Leith passed away at her home in Palm Springs on November 4th. She was 94.

Our condolences go out to Leith's family, friends, and fans.

The Brain That Wouldn't Die Virginia Leith

Source: THR

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.