Viola Dana

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Viola Dana
Violadana 2.jpg
Born Virginia Flugrath
(1897-06-26)June 26, 1897
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died July 3, 1987(1987-07-03) (aged 90)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Nationality American
Years active 1900–1933
Spouse(s) John H. Collins (m. 1915–18)
Maurice "Lefty" Flynn (m. 1925–29)
Jimmy Thomson (m. 1930–45)

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

Early life[edit]

Born Virginia Flugrath on June 26, 1897, she was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Viola was the middle sister of three siblings who would all become actresses. Her sisters were known as Edna Flugrath and Shirley Mason. Virginia’s "upbringing was fairly 'normal', without the poverty and tragedy that marked the early years of so many other young men and women who ultimately turned to the escapist world of the movies."[1]

Virginia 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 New York City. 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 David Belasco's Poor Little Rich Girl, when she was 16.

Virginia went into vaudeville with Dustin Farnum in The Little Rebel and played a bit part in The Model by Augustus Thomas.[1]

Film career[edit]

Viola Dana
Robert D. Walker and Viola Dana in a publicity still for the 1917 film "Aladdin's Other Lamp."

With the stage name of "Viola Dana", she entered films in 1910, including A Christmas Carol (1910).[2] which can be seen in its entirety at . 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 Hancock 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 important films for Rolfe/Metro, notably The Girl Without a Soul and Blue Jeans (both 1917). Rolfe closed his New York-area studio down 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 which rapidly turned into pneumonia 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 last important 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), 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.[3]

More than 50 years after her retirement from the screen, Dana appeared in the Kevin Brownlow/David Gill documentary series Hollywood (1980), discussing her career as a silent film star during the 1920s. Footage from the interview was used in the later documentary series Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow (1987) from the same team.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Dana's first husband was Edison director John Collins who died in the Influenza epidemic of 1918. In 1920, she began a relationship with Ormer "Lock" Locklear, a daring 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, for Fox Studios. 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 would not fly again for 25 years.[5][N 1]

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.[6]

Dana was married to Yale football star and actor Maurice "Lefty" Flynn in June 1925.[7] They divorced in February 1929.[8] Her third and final marriage was to golfer Jimmy Thomson from 1930 to March 1945.[9] In later years, she volunteered at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, before moving there permanently in 1979.[10]In 1990, she was the subject of a documentary short by Anthony Slide, "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.[11] She is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery under her birth name, Virginia 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[edit]

  • A Christmas Carol (1910)
  • Children Who Labor (1912)
  • The Butler and the Maid (1912)
  • How Father Accomplished His Work (1912)
  • The Lord and the Peasant (1912)
  • The Third Thanksgiving (1912)
  • My Friend from India (1914)
  • Molly the Drummer Boy (1914)
  • Treasure Trove (1914)
  • The Blind Fiddler (1914)
  • The Adventure of the Hasty Elopement (1914)
  • Seth's Sweetheart (1914)
  • Who Goes There? (1914)
  • Lena (1915)
  • A Thorn Among Roses (1915)
  • The Stone Heart (1915)
  • The Glory of Clementina (1915)
  • A Spiritual Elopement (1915)
  • The Portrait in the Attic (1915)
  • A Theft in the Dark (1915)
  • The Stoning (1915)
  • The Slavey Student (1915)
  • Her Happiness (1915)
  • The Strange Case of Poison Ivy (1933)
The Adventure of the Hasty Elopement (1914)





  1. ^ In the "Hazards of the Game" episode of Hollywood (1980), actresses Leatrice Joy and Viola Dana recalled Locklear and the making of his last film. Dana described his final flight.[5]


  1. ^ a b Stone, Tammy. "Viola Dana." The Silent Collection. Retrieved: October 22, 2014.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lussier, Tim. "The tragic Flugrath sisters: Hard to believe, But all three experienced the same loss.", 1999. Retrieved: October 22, 2014.
  4. ^ "Viola Dana, 1897–1987." Golden Silents, 2014. Retrieved: October 22, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Farmer 1984, p. 23.
  6. ^ Anderson, Nancy. "Viola Dana Loved the Real Waldo Pepper". Greeley Daily Tribune, April 28, 1975, p. 23. Retrieved: October 22, 2014.
  7. ^ "Viola Dana Marries Maurice "Lefty" Flynn." The Norwalk Hour, June 22, 1925, p. 5. Retrieved: May 1, 2013.
  8. ^ "Viola Dana To Wed Professional Golfer." The Portsmouth Sunday Times, October 11, 1930, p. 2. Retrieved: May 1, 2013.
  9. ^ "Divorce Granted Viola Dana." St. Petersburg Times, March 31, 1945, p. 8. Retrieved: May 1, 2013.
  10. ^ "Actress Viola Dana, 90, Star of 50 silent movies." Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1987. Retrieved: October 22, 2014.
  11. ^ "Silent Movie Star Viola Dana Dies." The Bryan Times, July 11, 1987, p. 3. Retrieved: May 1, 2013.


  • 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.

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