The daughter of a Los Angeles detective captain and the niece of director Lloyd Bacon, Virginia O'Brien was 17 when she made her stage debut in Meet the People. The story goes that O'Brien "froze" at the prospect of facing an audience, whereupon she rendered her song without cracking a smile, or displaying any other sort of facial expression. The audience laughed uproariously, and thereafter O'Brien became famous as the "deadpan" songstress. Signed by MGM in 1940, O'Brien appeared in several of the studio's top musicals, usually as a specialty act unrelated to the plot at hand (a prime example of this is her entertaining but totally gratuitous swing rendition of "Rock a Bye Baby" in the Marx Brothers' The Big Store). One of her few speaking parts was in support of Judy Garland and Cyd Charisse in The Harvey Girls (1948). After her MGM contract ended in 1949, O'Brien performed in night clubs, touring shows, and TV variety series. Married twice, Virginia O'Brien's first husband was Kirk Alyn, the movies' first Superman.