Posts Tagged ‘William Wallace Kerrigan’

The tragic death of Virginia Richdale Kerrigan

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

From left: W. W. Kerrigan, W. W. Kerrigan Jr., Nina Kerrigan, J. Warren Kerrigan and Virginia Richdale Kerrigan

Virginia Richdale Kerrigan was the daughter of Nina Richdale and William Wallace Kerrigan, the twin brother of silent film actor, J Warren Kerrigan. In 1915, Kerrigan was general manager of Universal Studios, and also managed his brother’s career.

Virginia was born on November 15, 1915 on the Universal Studios lot — the first of three children to be born there shortly after the studio opened. The others were: the son of Charles Oelze (assistant to Kerrigan), and Wallace Stith (named in honor of Kerrigan), the son of William Stith, who worked in Universal’s technical department. All three babies were used in several early Universal scenarios. In particular, baby Virginia appeared in Good and Evil (1916) and Her Soul’s Song (1916).

Over the years, Kerrigan directed the careers of such stars as William S. Hart, Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino. Valentino first met Kerrigan while working on the set of Delicious Little Devil (1919) with Mae Murray. At the time, Kerrigan was managing his brother’s career and soon did the same for Valentino. Over the coming months, Rudy became attached to little Virginia, spending many hours at her Ivar Avenue home (2050 Ivar Avenue). Later, even after his success, Valentino continued to visit Virginia, taking her for rides in his car through the streets of the Hollywood Hills.

The death certificate of Virginia Richdale Kerrigan (click on image to enlarge)

On the day after Christmas 1924, Virginia and her family were attending a party at a neighbors house at 2006 Ivar Avenue. There was a nip in the air that day, and an open gas heater was lit to take off the chill. Virginia had received a new dress as a present the previous day, and was modeling it for the party goers. Shortly before noon, as she laughed and twirled around the room, the hem of her dress brushed over the heater and ignited. The flames spread rapidly to the upper part of her clothing and to her hair. Before the others could extinguish the flames, Virginia was badly burned about the arms, body, and head.

The Hollywood police rushed the injured girl to the Stadfield Hospital on Sunset Boulevard where she was treated before being transferred to the Hollywood Community Hospital at 1300 Vermont Avenue. Virginia lingered for nearly thirty-six hours before succumbing to her injuries at 10:30 p.m., Saturday night, December 27, 1924.

The home of actor J. Warren Kerrigan where the funeral for his niece Virginia was held.

The funeral was held at 2307 Cahuenga Blvd, the home of Virginia’s uncle, actor J. Warren Kerrigan. Afterward, Virginia was interred at Hollywood Cemetery in crypt 1399 of the Cathedral Mausoleum, across from her grandmother, Sarah McLean Kerrigan, who passed away two years earlier.

According to Virginia’s brother, Patrick O. Kerrigan (who was born a few years after Virginia’s death), Rudolph Valentino, who had a profound love of children, was devastated by her death and would often leave flowers at her crypt. In less than two years, Valentino would be interred in the same building, only two corridors away from Virginia.

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