Viola Dana Biography

American actress (1897–1987)

Viola Dana (born Virginia Flugrath; June 26, 1897 – July 3, 1987) was an American film actress who was successful during the era of silent films. She appeared in over 100 films, but was unable to make the transition to sound films.

Early life

Born Virginia Flugrath on June 26, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York City, where she was raised, she was the middle sister of three siblings who all became actresses. Her sisters were known as Edna Flugrath and Shirley Mason. Dana appeared on the stage at the age of three. She read Shakespeare and particularly identified with the teenage Juliet. She enjoyed a long run at the Hudson Theater in Manhattan. Between 1910 and 1912, she made four small appearances in the emergent film industry in New York, using the name Viola Flugrath. A particular favorite of audiences was her performance in Eleanor Gates' Poor Little Rich Girl when she was 16.

She began performing in vaudeville with Dustin Farnum in The Little Rebel and played a bit part in The Model by Augustus Thomas.

Film career

Metro Pictures adverti*t for the filmmaking team of Viola Dana and John H. Collins (1916)Robert D. Walker and Viola Dana in a publicity still for Aladdin's Other Lamp (1917)

With the stage name of Viola Dana, she entered films in 1910, including A Christmas Carol (1910). Her first motion picture was made at a former Manhattan (New York) riding academy on West 61st Street. The stalls had been transformed to dressing rooms. Dana became a star with the Edison Manufacturing Company, working at their studio in the Bronx. She fell in love with Edison director John Han* Collins, and they married in 1915. Dana's success in Collins's Edison features such as Children of Eve (1915) and The Cossack Whip (1916) encouraged producer B.A. Rolfe to offer the couple lucrative contracts with his company, Rolfe Photoplays, which released through Metro Pictures Corporation. Dana and Collins accepted Rolfe's offer in 1916 and made several films for Rolfe/Metro, notably The Girl Without a Soul and Blue Jeans (both 1917). Rolfe closed his New York-area studio in the face of the 1918 flu pandemic and sent most of his personnel to California. Dana left before Collins, who was finishing work at the studio; however, Collins contracted influenza and died in a New York hotel room on October 23, 1918.

Dana remained in California acting for Metro throughout the 1920s, but her popularity gradually waned. One of her latter roles was in Frank Capra's first film for Columbia Pictures, That Certain Thing (1928). She retired from the screen in 1929. Her final screen credits are roles in Two Sisters (1929), One Splendid Hour (1929), and with her sister Leonie Flugrath, better known as Shirley Mason (years earlier she had appeared with her older sister, Edna Flugrath, in the 1923 film The Social Code), in The Show of Shows (1929). By the time she made her final film appearance in 1933, she had appeared in over 100 films. She briefly came out of retirement to appear in her first and only television role in a small part on Lux Video Theatre in 1956.

More than 50 years after her retirement from the screen, Dana appeared in the Kevin Brownlow/David Gill do*entary series Hollywood (1980), discussing her career as a silent film star during the 1920s. Footage from the interview was used in the later do*entary series Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow (1987) from the same team.

Personal life

Dana's first husband was Edison director John Collins who died in the influenza pandemic of 1918. In 1920, she began a relationship with Ormer "Lock" Locklear, an aviator, military veteran and budding film star. Locklear died when his aircraft crashed on August 2, 1920 during a nighttime film shoot for The Skywayman. Although married, Locklear had been dating Dana, and on the night before his death, in a premonition, gave her some of his personal effects. Dana witnessed the 1920 crash and did not fly again for 25 years.

Locklear was reputed to be the prototype for the character of Waldo Pepper played by Robert Redford in The Great Waldo Pepper (1975). Dana was an honored guest at its premiere.

Dana was married to Yale football star and actor Maurice "Lefty" Flynn in June 1925. They divorced in February 1929. Her third and final marriage was to golfer Jimmy Thomson from 1930 to March 1945. In later years, she volunteered at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, and she moved there permanently in 1979. In 1986, one year before her death, she was the subject of a do*entary short by Anthony Slide *led Vi: Portrait of a Silent Star, in which she talks of her life and career.


Dana died on July 3, 1987 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles at the age of 90. Her urn at Hollywood Forever Cemetery lists her as Viola Dana as well as her birth name Flugrath.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Viola Dana has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard.


Short subject

  • A Christmas Carol (1910)
  • Children Who Labor (1912) as The Immigrant's Older Daughter
  • The Butler and the Maid (1912) as The Statue
  • How Father Accomplished His Work (1912) as The Second Daughter
  • The Lord and the Peasant (1912) as Mary's Sister
  • The Third Thanksgiving (1912)
  • Molly the Drummer Boy (1914) as Molly Mason
  • My Friend from India (1914) as Gertie Underholt
  • Treasure Trove (1914) as Cora Fairfield
  • The Blind Fiddler (1914) as The Fairy
  • The Adventure of the Hasty Elopement (1914) as Ruth
  • Seth's Sweetheart (1914) as Sally
  • Who Goes There? (1914) as Kate - Toppy's Sweetheart
  • Lena (1915) as Euphemia Miggles
  • A Thorn Among Roses (1915)
  • The Stone Heart (1915) as Nan Cowles
  • The Glory of Clementina (1915) as Etta Concanna
  • A Spiritual Elopement (1915) as Evelyn Banks
  • The Portrait in the Attic (1915) as Thelma
  • A Theft in the Dark (1915) as Lady Genevieve
  • The Stoning (1915) as Ruth Fenton
  • The Slavey Student (1915) as Alma Picket
  • Her Happiness (1915) as Viola Winters
  • The Strange Case of Poison Ivy (1933)
The Adventure of the Hasty Elopement (1914)


Lobby card from Naughty Nannette-1927
  • The House of the Lost Court (1915, lost film) as Dolores Edgerton
  • Cohen's Luck (1915, lost film) as Minnie Cohen
  • On Dangerous Paths (1915, lost film) as Eleanor Thurston
  • Gladiola (1915, lost film) as Gladiola Bain
  • Children of Eve (1915) as Fifty-Fifty Mamie
  • The Innocence of Ruth (1916) as Ruth Travers
  • The Flower of No Man's Land (1916, lost film) as Echo
  • The Light of Happiness (1916, lost film) as Tangletop
  • The Gates of Eden (1916, lost film) as Eve / Evelyn
  • The Cossack Whip (1916) as Darya Orlinsky
  • Threads of Fate (1917) as Dorothea
  • Rosie O'Grady (1917, lost film) as Rosie O'Grady
  • The Mortal Sin (1917, lost film) as Jane Anderson
  • God's Law and Man's (1917, lost film) as Ameia
  • Lady Barnacle (1917, lost film) as Lakshima
  • Aladdin’s Other Lamp (1917, lost film) as Patricia Smith (Patsy)
  • The Girl Without A Soul (1917) as Unity Beaumont / Priscilla Beaumont
  • Blue Jeans (1917) as June
  • The Winding Trail (1918, lost film) as Audrey Graham
  • A Weaver of Dreams (1918, lost film) as Judith Sylvester
  • Breakers Ahead (1918, lost film) as Ruth Bowman
  • Riders of the Night (1918) as Sally Castleton
  • The Only Road (1918) as Nita
  • Opportunity (1918) as Mary Willard
  • Flower of the Dusk (1918, print, Bois d'Arcy) as Barbara North
  • The Gold Cure (1919, lost film) as Annice Paisch
  • Satan Junior (1919) as Diana Ardway
  • The Parisian Tigress (1919, lost film) as Jeanne
  • False Evidence (1919) as Madelon MacTavish
  • Some Bride (1919, lost film) as Patricia Morley
  • The Microbe (1919, lost film) as Happy O'Brien, The Microbe
  • Please Get Married (1919, lost film) as Muriel Ashley
  • The Willow Tree (1920) as O-Riu
  • Dangerous to Men (1920, lost film) as Eliza
  • The Chorus Girl's Romance (1920) as Marcia Meadows
  • Blackmail (1920, lost film) as Flossie Golden
  • Cinderella's Twin (1920, lost film) as Connie McGill
  • The Off-S* Pirate (1921, lost film) as Ardita Farnam
  • Puppets of Fate (1921) as Sorrentina Palombra
  • Home Stuff (1921) as Madge Joy
  • Life's Darn Funny (1921, lost film) as Zoe Roberts
  • The Match-Breaker (1921, lost film) as Jane Morgan
  • There Are No Villains (1921, lost film) as Rosa Moreland
  • The Fourteenth Lover (1922) as Vi Marchmont
  • Gl* Houses (1922, lost film) as Joy Duval
  • Seeing's Believing (1922) as Diana Webster
  • They Like 'Em Rough (1922, lost film) as Katherine
  • The Five Dollar Baby (1922, lost film) as Ruth
  • June Madness (1922) as Clytie Whitmore
  • Love in the Dark (1922, lost film) as Mary Duffy
  • Crinoline and Romance (1923, lost film) as Miss Emmy Lou
  • Her Fatal Millions (1923) as Mary Bishop
  • Hollywood (1923) as Viola Dana
  • Rouged Lips (1923) as Norah MacPherson
  • The Social Code (1923, lost film) as Babs Van Buren
  • In Search of a Thrill (1923) as Ann Clemance
  • A Noise in Newboro (1923, lost film) as Martha Mason
  • The Heart Bandit (1924, lost film) as Molly O'Hara
  • Don't Doubt Your Husband (1924, lost film) as Helen Blake
  • The Beauty Prize (1924, lost film) as Connie Du Bois
  • Revelation (1924) as Joline Hofer
  • Merton of the Movies (1924, lost film) as Sally Montague, 'Flips'
  • Open All Night (1924) as Thérèse Duverne
  • Along Came Ruth (1924, lost film) as Ruth Ambrose
  • As Man Desires (1924, lost film) as Pandora La Croix
  • Forty Winks (1925, lost film) as Eleanor Butterworth
  • The Necessary Evil (1925, lost film) as Shirley Holmes
  • Winds of Chance (1925) as Rouletta Kirby
  • The Great Love (1925, lost film) as Minette Bunker
  • Wild Oats Lane (1926, lost film) as Marie, the Girl
  • Bigger Than Barnum's (1926) as Juanita Calles
  • Kosher Kitty Kelly (1926, incomplete film, missing one reel) as Kitty Kelly
  • The Ice Flood (1926) as Marie O'Neill
  • The Silent Lover (1926) as Scadsza
  • Bred in Old Kentucky (1926) as Katie O'Doone
  • Home Struck (1927) as Barbara Page
  • Salvation Jane (1927) as Salvation Jane
  • Naughty Nanette (1927) as Nanette Pearson
  • Lure of the Night Club (1927) as Mary Murdock
  • That Certain Thing (1928) as Molly Kelly
  • Two Sisters (1929, lost film) as Jean / Jane
  • One Splendid Hour (1929) as Bobbie Walsh
  • The Show of Shows (1929, black-and-white version is extant, and the technicolor version is partially extant) as Performer in 'The Pirate,' 'Meet My Sister' & 'Ladies of the Ensemble' Numbers


  • The Flower of No Man's Land (1916)

  • The Flower of No Man's Land (1916)

  • The Light of Happiness (1916)

  • The Gates of Eden (1916)

  • Threads of Fate (1917)

  • The Mortal Sin (1917)

  • God's Law and Man's (1917)

  • Blue Jeans (1917)

  • A Weaver of Dreams (1918)

  • The Only Road (1918)

  • Riders of the Night (1918)

  • Some Bride (1919)





      • Farmer, James H. Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation. Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: Tab Books Inc., 1984. ISBN:978-0-83062-374-7.
      • "From the Movies to Stardom". Ogden Standard, January 10, 1914, p.:27.
      • "Little Viola Dana Ambitious to Become Grown-Up Actress". Indianapolis Star, January 15, 1914, p.:13.
      • "Viola Dana In Person at Faurot". Lima News, March 23, 1930, p.:24.

      External links

      Wikimedia Commons has media related to Viola Dana.
      • Viola Dana photo gallery
      • Viola Dana at IMDb
      • Viola Dana at the Internet Broadway Database
      • Viola Dana at Virtual History
      Viola Dana