Virginia Davis, Disney's first actress, is dead at 90

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Virginia Davis, best known as Disney's first actress, died Friday night at age 90, the Orange County Register's Around Disney blog reported:

Davis starred in Walt Disney's short film series, The Alice Comedies.

Davis was born in 1918 in Kansas City, Missouri. Her mother, actress Margaret Davis, encouraged Virginia to take dance lessons and attend modeling auditions, which led to the beginning of her career. Davis was discovered by Walt Disney through her appearance on an advertisement for Warneker's Bread. In 1923, Disney asked Davis to act in his first short film called Alice's Wonderland, which was filmed at Davis' Missouri home. Four-year-old Davis starred as Alice in the partially live action, partially animated film.

After completing the film, Disney's Laugh-O-Gram studio went bankrupt. Though out of money, Disney convinced Davis and her family to join him in moving to California so he could create an entire Alice Comedies series. The initial shorts were directed by Walt Disney and filmed by his brother, Roy, in their first California studio—a garage. Soon, the series took off in popularity. However, as the series gained popularity, so did animation. Thus, Davis' role was minimized and her contract was severed.

Davis later auditioned for roles in animated Disney films, including the voice of Snow White, but her mother refused to let her accept the roles because the pay was too low. She eventually became the editor of lifestyle magazines.