Viola Dana

Active - 1915 - 1929  |   Born - Jun 28, 1897   |   Died - Jul 3, 1987   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Crime, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Together with her sister Shirley Mason, actress Viola Dana began her Broadway career in 1913, under her family name of Flugrath. Viola played the lead in the original production of Poor Little Rich Girl, which led to her being cast in two films. A star at the Edison studios in the teens, Viola married Edison's finest director, John H. Collins, and the two collaborated on such above-average efforts as Children of Eve (1915) (a surprisingly graphic re-enactment of the notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire), The Cossack Whip (1916) and Blue Jeans (1917). Collins died during the influenza epidemic of 1918; less than two years later, Viola suffered another personal tragedy when her then-beau, stunt pilot Omar Locklear, fell to his death while making a film. During the 1920s, Viola was a highly-paid star with the Metro company. Her star faded around 1928; reduced to working for parsimonious Columbia Pictures, Viola turned out one last memorable silent appearance when she starred in Frank Capra's first Columbia effort, That Certain Thing (1928). When talkies came in, producers decided that Viola's voice didn't match her face. She worked in vaudeville before retiring completely, preferring to remain at home as the wife of western star/stunt man "Lefty" Flynn. Upon the rediscovery of her John Collins-directed Edison films in the mid-1970s, Viola Dana returned to the public eye, regaling TV interviewers and film-festival audiences with her clear-minded, down-to-earth reminiscences of her screen career.

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