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BIOGRAPHY: Viola Emily Allen born Oct. 27, 1867



(Oct 27, 1867 – May 9, 1948)

Madison County, Alabama

Viola Emily Allen, actress, was born on Oct 27, 1867, in Huntsville, Alabama. She was the daughter of Charles Leslie Allen (Jun 1830- Feb. 23, 1917, Conn.) and Sarah J. (Lyon) Allen, (1838 Eng. – July 11, 1928, Conn.) the former a character actor of an old Boston family, the latter of English descent. Sarah J. Lyon was the daughter of William Alexander Lyon (1812 Eng. – May 25, 1891, Toronto, Canada) and Sarah Ann (Oldroyd) Lyon (ca. 1819 London, Eng – Aug 21, 1899, Toronto, Canada)

Viola accompanied her parents to Boston at the age of three; received her education in that city, at Wykham Hall, Toronto, and at a New York boarding school.

At the age of fifteen, she made her debut in “Esmeralda” at the Madison Square Theatre in New York when she took the part of Annie Russell who was playing the role and had fallen ill. She later joined John McCullough company, playing Virginia, Desdemona, Cordelia, etc.; played classical. Shakesperean and comedy roles with Lawrence Barrett, Tommaso Salvini, Joseph Jefferson, and William J. Florence. Between the years of 1884 and 1886, she performed with the best-known 19th-century actors. “She is best remembered for her roles in Shenandoah (by Bronson Howard) and Little Lord Fauntleroy.”

For one season she played the leading part at the Boston museum and one year at Empire theatre. She spent four years creating and playing roles in “Liberty Hall”, “Sowing the Wind”, “The Masqueraders”, “Under the Red Robe”, etc. She starred as Gloria Quayle in “The Christian”, 1898; produced “In the Palace of the King”, 1900, and “The Eternal City”, 1902.

Under the management of her brother she began a series of Shakesperean revivals, 1903, and produced “The School for Scandal” She starred in the 1915 silent film “The White Sister” along with Richard Travers. She married in 1906 Peter Duryea, a well-known horseman, and they resided in New York. Her last professional appearance was in 1918. She died May 9, 1948 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York. Her husband died in 1944.


  1. History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 3 By Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen
  2. Wikipedia

Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Volume II


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