Shirley Mason (actress)

Shirley Mason (born Leonie Flugrath,[1] June 6, 1901 July 27, 1979)[2] was an American actress of the silent era.

Shirley Mason
Mason, 1923
Leonie Flugrath

(1901-06-06)June 6, 1901
DiedJuly 27, 1979(1979-07-27) (aged 78)
Resting placeWestwood Memorial Park
Years active1910–1929
RelativesEdna Flugrath (sister)
Viola Dana (sister)


Mason was born in Brooklyn, New York,[2] to Emil and Mary (née Dubois) Flugrath. She and her two sisters Edna and Virginia became actresses at the insistence of their mother. Mason, and her sister Virginia (Viola Dana), made their film debuts at the ages of 10 and 13, respectively, in the film A Christmas Carol (1910).[3] Mason's next film was 1911's The Threshold of Life (1911).

As a child actress, Mason was not in high demand. It was not until 1915 that she played her role in Vanity Fair. She acted for Edison studios in 1916,[4] starring in The Littlest Magdalene.[5] In 1917, her career saw a major advance as she was cast in 13 films that year alone, and was given the title role in the film The Awakening of Ruth.[6] Mason continued a vibrant acting career through the 1920s, landing several major roles. In the 1929 film, The Flying Marine, she appeared in her final role (along with her sister Viola) capping her career at 109 films between the years of 1910 and 1929.

The Flugrath sisters were a talented trio, and all three graced the theatrical world with their work in the silent film industry. Edna Flugrath was the eldest daughter, born in 1893, and was the only sister to maintain her original name upon entering the cinematic world. Virginia, who later changed her name to Viola Dana, was born in 1897, followed by the youngest, Leonie, who one day became Shirley Mason. The mother of the Flugrath sisters was the one who first dreamed of their stage careers, and at a very young age had them enrolled in dance classes. The sisters spent much of their childhood touring with companies at Coney Island, Elks Clubs and other venues.[7]

Eventually, their mother's efforts paid off; all three sisters were hired by Edison Studios. Viola met her husband, John Collins, at Edison, and the young director and actress became a successful husband-wife team. Edna also met her future husband Harold Shaw at the Edison Studios, and when he went to the UK in 1913 to direct at the London Film Company. Edna accompanied him; however, they did not marry until 1917 when they were producing films in South Africa. Shirley had appeared in several films and had met her future husband, Bernard Durning. Durning was a fellow actor and also director, and although eight years her senior, the two were married when Mason was only 16 years old. Mason and Durning enjoyed a very happy marriage, his directing films back East, and Shirley acting in them. All was well until 1923 when Bernard contracted typhoid fever and died, leaving 22-year-old Shirley a widow. Mason was remarried once more in 1927 to director Sidney Lanfield. The two remained married until Lanfield died of a heart attack in 1972.[8]

On July 27, 1979, Mason died of cancer in Los Angeles.[2]

Partial filmography


  1. "Shapely Shirly of the Sins". Photoplay Magazine. XI (4): 89–90. March 1917. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  2. Katchmer, George A. (2009). A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses. McFarland. ISBN 9780786446933. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  3. "Actual film stored at".
  4. "Is the Venus di Milo Out of Date? Anyway, Leonie Flugrath Thinks So". Motion Picture Classic. III (1): 45–47. September 1916. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  5. "'The Littlest Magdalene'". Moving Picture World. 28 (10): 1710–1711. June 3, 1916. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  6. "Biography from IMDB".
  7. "Flugrath Article".
  8. "Miss Shirley Mason". Retrieved August 5, 2015.
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