Virginia Sale

Virginia Sale (May 20, 1899 – August 23, 1992) was an American character actress whose career spanned six decades, during most of which she played older women, even when she was in her twenties. Over the 46 years she was active as an actress, she worked in films, stage, radio and television. She was famous for her one-woman stage show, Americana Sketches, which she did for more than 1,000 performances during a 15-year span.

Virginia Sale
Sale in 1942
Born(1899-05-20)May 20, 1899
DiedAugust 23, 1992(1992-08-23) (aged 93)
Years active1927–1973
Spouse(s)Sam Wren: 1935-62 (his death)
ChildrenVirginia Wren Moore
Christopher S. Wren

Married to actor and studio executive Sam Wren, she co-starred with him in one of the first television family comedies, Wren's Nest, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. She gave birth to fraternal twins, Virginia and Christopher, in 1936. Later in her career she worked on television, and in commercials. She died from heart failure at the age of 93 at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in 1992.

Early life

Born on May 20, 1899 in Urbana, Illinois to Frank Orville and Lillie Belle (Partlow) Sale, she attended the University of Illinois for two years, before transferring to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, from which she would graduate.[1] Her brother, the famed vaudeville comedian Charles "Chic" Sale, convinced her to leave New York and pursue a career in Hollywood films.[2]


Upon her arrival in Hollywood, Sale quickly discovered it was easier for her to get character roles as older women. Even though she was still in her twenties, Sale would be cast as old women in many of the films she appeared in.[2] Her career began at the very tail end of the silent film era, with her first film being in 1927's Legionnaires In Paris.[3] Her early career included roles in such classic films as Moby Dick (1930), starring John Barrymore, 1933's Oliver Twist, and Madame Du Barry (1934).[4] During this period she met actor and studio executive Sam Wren, and the two were married in 1935. The following year she would give birth to fraternal twins, Virginia and Christopher.[2]

She would develop her own one-woman show, Americana Sketches, based on her life and experiences growing up in Urbana, Illinois. During the 1930s, 40s and 50s, she would perform this piece in excess of 6000 times, including touring Europe during World War II, performing for the troops.[2] She was also a frequent performer on radio, and was a regular on For Those We Love, a radio serial in the late 1930s and 40s.[1] During this period, she would continue to appear in films, including such well known vehicles as: Topper (1937), starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett; When Tomorrow Comes (1939), with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer; Raoul Walsh's They Died With Their Boots On (1942), starring Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland; Badman's Territory (1945) and Trail Street (1947), both with Randolph Scott; and Night and Day (1946), directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Cary Grant.[4]

In 1947, she had a recurring role in back-to-back films centered on a detective character, Russ Ashton (played by Tom Neal): The Hat-box Mystery and The Case of the Baby Sitter. While a series based on the character might have been planned, these were the only two films produced about the character by Screen Art Pictures.[5][6]

As the television industry began, Sale's husband, Sam Wren, developed a sitcom for the new medium. Entitled Wren's Nest, it centered around the family life of the Wren's, starring the couple and their twin twelve-year-old children, and ran three times a week during 1949.[1]

Sale took a hiatus from the film industry in the 1950s, focusing on television, mainly in commercials. The 1960s would see her begin to appear on episodic television, including a featured role on the popular series, Petticoat Junction from 1965 to 1969.[1][7] She would also return to the big screen, appearing in films such as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967), and One Man's Way (1964).[4] Her final film appearance would be in a small role in 1973's Slither, starring James Caan, Peter Boyle, and Sally Kellerman.


(Per AFI database)[4]

Later years

She remained married to her husband, Sam, until his death in 1962. In her final years, she lived at the Motion Picture and Television Country Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, where she died on August 23, 1992 from heart failure.[1][2] She was interred next to her husband in Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, where he had earned a burial plot for his service in World War I.[8][9]


  1. "Virginia Sale, 93, Actress in Hundreds Of Character Roles". New York Times. August 25, 1992. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  2. Folkart, Burt A. (August 25, 1992). "Virginia Sale, 92; Actress Made Age an Asset". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  3. "Legionnaires In Paris: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  4. "Virginia Sale". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  5. "The Hat-box Mystery: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  6. "The Case of the Baby Sitter: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  7. "Virginia Sale - biography". Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  8. "Virginia Sale". Find A Grave. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  9. "Samuel McIndoe Wren". Find A Grave. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
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