Viola Barry

Viola Barry (March 4, 1894 – April 2, 1964) was an American silent film actress who starred in a number of films during the decade of the 1910s.

Viola Barry
Harry Carey and Viola Barry in Ace of the Saddle (1919)
Gladys Viola Wilson

(1894-03-04)March 4, 1894
DiedApril 2, 1964(1964-04-02) (aged 70)
OccupationFilm actress
Years active19111920
Spouse(s)John Conway (19111918)
F. McGrew Willis (19211957)


Early Years

Gladys Viola Wilson was born in Evanston, Illinois the daughter of Rev. J. Stitt Wilson, a Methodist minister.[1] She moved with her family to Berkeley, California, where her father would become prominent as a socialist lecturer and gain election as Mayor of Berkeley in 1911.

Acting career

In 1910, under her stage name Viola Barry,[2] Wilson signed with the Belasco Theater Company to be their new ingénue. Prior to this, she had four years of stage experience, two of these with Benson's Shakespearean Company in England. Among the heroines she played were Viola, Juliet, Portia, and Rosalind. Her first appearance with the Belasco company was in The Test by Jules Eckert Goodman.

She was in motion pictures from 1911 through 1920. Her early screen credits include The Totem Mask, The Voyager: A Tale of Old Canada, McKee Rankin's '49, John Oakhurst, Gambler, An Indian Vestal, Coals of Fire, A Painter's Idyl, The Chief's Daughter, George Warrington's Escape, and Evangeline. All these were completed in her first year in movies.

Personal life

In February 1911, Barry married actor and film director Jack Conway of the Bison Moving Picture Company in Santa Ana, California. They had one daughter, Rosemary. The couple divorced in 1918.

Barry subsequently married screenwriter Frank McGrew Willis, with whom she had four more children: Virginia, Gloria, McGrew, and James.

Death and legacy

Viola Barry Willis died in 1964 in Hollywood, California. She was buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

Selected filmography


  1. "Returned Lecturer, J. Stitt Wilson, to Speak at Berkeley," Oakland Tribune, Feb 13, 1910, pg. 30.
  2. Although she used it for the rest of her life, Viola Barry was actually a stage name. See: "Actress, Daughter of Well Known Socialist, Marries," Oakland Tribune, Feb. 28, 1911, pg. 11.

Other sources consulted

  • Los Angeles Times, "Viola Barry at Belasco", November 24, 1910, Page II6.
  • Los Angeles Times, "No Failure For Them", February 27, 1911, Page II3.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Rites Held for Star of Silent Films", April 7, 1964, Page 32.
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