Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shirley Mason

Shirley and Viola Dana

On to the next Flugrath sister...Leonie, aka Shirley Mason! In my opinion, one of the most beautiful ladies to grace the silent screen. I mean, she is just gorgeous!

Now, I am taking the easy way out and copying a lot of information from the previous post about Viola Dana because, well, they are pretty much the same for all the sisters. So, if you see some repeated information, you aren't going crazy, it is just easier to copy and paste. If this is the first post you are reading, then you are gonna get all the information you need!

Shirley Mason Mason was born Leonie Flugrath on June 6, 1900 in Brooklyn, New York. She was the youngest child born to Emil, a printer, and Mary Flugrath. She joined older sisters Edna (b. 1893) and Virginia/Viola Dana (b. 1897) and brother LeRoy (1895-1901).

Emil Flugrath is an interesting person, at least as far as research goes. His name appears in the 1900 census records I was looking through but he is not found in the 1910 or 1920 census records I had in front of me.  However, he was in TWO records in 1930. In one, his name is crossed out with "ERROR" written in the ledger, and in the other his name is listed but with no other family members. I haven't seen anything like that before so it was pretty interesting. From what I have read, Emil was a part of his daughter's lives and didn't desert them, so I am thinking that the census record taker misspelled their name and the family is on there under that name.

Mary Flugrath didn't just want her girls to be actresses, she wanted them to be stars! When she was younger, she wanted to be an actress but her parents refused to even entertain the notion. So, she took all that drive and determination and put it towards making her daughters into the stage and screen stars that she had dreamed of. Her husband Emil helped out with the process by building his daughters a gymnasium for them to work out and 'train' in. He was a former amateur athlete himself so that was right up his alley. 

Shirley and Viola

Older sister Viola was the one who was making the biggest splash on the stage and the one making trips to the studio to look for movie work. Shirley began to tag along with her sister and eventually the girls were cast in the 1910 version of A Christmas Carol, appearing as the daughters of Bob Cratchit in the final scene. 

She began her career using her birth name but sister Edna said that because she was the eldest, should should be the only one using Flugrath (whatever, sis). So, through a combined effort between the studios and the family, "Shirley Mason" was the name chosen for the youngest Flugrath sister. 

During her career, Shirley appeared with stars like Lewis Stone, Boris Karloff, Evelyn Brent, and Richard Arlen. She appeared with her sister Edna in the 1912 short, Uncle Mun and the Minister, and appeared with Viola in Children Who Labor (1912), The Portrait in the Attic (1915), and The Show of Shows (1923).

One of her most well known roles was as Eve Leslie in the "Seven Deadly Sins" series in 1917. It started with Envy, then Pride, Greed, Sloth, Passion, Wrath, and finally The Seventh Sin. The last installment should have been 'Gluttony' but the term was deemed too offensive by the producers so the title was changed. The same goes for Passion as 'Lust' was considered offensive as well. 

Her last film appearance was in 1929's Dark Skies.

Shirley passed away on July 27, 1979 in Los Angeles, California. 

She was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park.

Bernard J. Durning and Shirley

Shirley married twice. Her first husband was director Bernard J. Durning who she married in 1917. The couple was very happy and very much in love, but sadly the good times would not last. Durning reportedly drank some tainted water while working on a film in Brooklyn and got typhoid fever. Sadly, he passed away in August of 1923 with Shirley by his side. 

Her second marriage was to another director, Sidney Lanfield. The two were married in 1927 and remained married until Lanfield's death in 1972. Like her sisters, she never had children.

"Please don't repeat it, but I was born in Brooklyn, and live in the Bronx. I play solitaire between scenes at the studios; and -- ssh! -- I'm married!" ~~ Shirley Mason, Photoplay, December 1918


  1. She is quite striking and I saw a very early picture of her dancing. What a shame that 2 of these sisters lost the men they loved early. At least Shirley found love and seemed to be happy as they stayed least i hope they were happy.

    1. All THREE sisters lost their first husbands tragically, and they were all directors. Freaky deaky.