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The Iron Rider Still

Viola Smith from the 1920 Silent Western "The Iron Rider".

Violet Irene Smith (1897-1970) American Actress. Considered in her day to be one of the screen's great beauties, Viola Smith was born born Violet Smith in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Rochester. As a youngster she appeared in amateur stage productions in Rochester, and at age 15 made her film debut under her real name. Under contract to Biograph, she appeared in a wide variety of films. She left that studio in 1916 and joined Universal Pictures, where she appeared in a long series of comedy and dramatic shorts before making her feature debut in 1917. She worked not only for Universal but for many independent companies, and made several films with veteran western star William S. Hart. Her popularity soared in the 1917-1918 period as she turned out a slew of films for many different studios. In 1918 she married director Albert Russell, who specialized in westerns, and began making westerns herself. After she and Russell divorced, she abandoned westerns and began turning out "society" dramas. Her popularity began to decline in 1923, and she began appearing in more and more undistinguished, low-budget independent fodder for the states-rights market. She met director John Gorman in 1926 while appearing in one of his films and they were married later that year. She retired from the screen in 1927. She and Gorman divorced, and she later married Lawrence McDougal, and that lasted until he died in 1970. Several months later, in October of 1970, she herself died of heart disease and diabetes.


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