Viola Allen: Star of “The White Sister”

Viola Allen (1867-1948) was a second generation star of the 19th century stage. Her father was actor Charles Leslie Adams, or C. Leslie Adams; the itinerant nature of his work resulted in Viola being raised in several cities: Huntsville, Alabama, Boston, and Toronto. The elder Allen was appearing with Annie Russell at the Madison Square Theatre in a production of Sheridan Knowles’ The Hunchback in 1882 when the star took ill. Her father lobbied for Viola to play the part and this is how she became a professional actress. She would play the part again in her own production in 1902. Of her dozens of roles over the years, notable outings include the original Broadway productions of Bronson Howard’s Shenandoah (1889-90), Henry Arthur Jones’ The Masqueraders (1984-95), Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), as well as an early tour of Little Lord Fauntleroy and many Shakespearean classics. Many of these plays also featured her father, with whom she continued to act for two decades. Her 1909 stage hit The White Sister was made into a 1915 film by Essanay Studios with her also in the lead. Viola Allen last professional credit was Open Your Eyes, a 1919 educational film about venereal disease.