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May Allison
Allison in 1925
Born(1890-06-14)June 14, 1890
DiedMarch 27, 1989(1989-03-27) (aged 98)
Years active1911–1927
Colonel J.L. Stephenson
(m. 1919; ann. 1920)
(m. 1920; div. 1923)
(m. 1926; died 1932)
Carl Norton Osborne
(m. 1934; died 1982)

May Allison (June 14, 1890 – March 27, 1989) was an American actress whose greatest success was achieved in the early part of the 20th century in silent films, although she also appeared on stage. [1]

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Life and career

Allison was born in Rising Fawn, Georgia,[2] the youngest of five children born to John Samuel Allison and Nannie Virginia (née Wise) Allison.[3][4] She made her Broadway debut in 1911 as "Beauty" in Walter Browne's Everywoman before settling in Hollywood, California in the early days of motion pictures.[5][6] Allison's screen debut was as an ingenue in the 1915 star-making Theda Bara vehicle A Fool There Was.[2]

When Allison was cast that same year opposite actor Harold Lockwood in the Allan Dwan directed romantic film David Harum, audiences quickly became enamored of the onscreen duo. The pair starred in approximately twenty-five highly successful features together during the World War I era and became one of the first celebrated on-screen romantic duos.[7]

Allison and Lockwood's highly popular film romances ended, however, when in 1918 Lockwood died at the age of 31 after contracting Spanish influenza, a deadly epidemic that swept the world from 1918 through 1919 killing 50 to 100 million people globally.[8] Allison's career then faltered markedly without her popular leading male co-star. She continued to act in films throughout the 1920s, although she never received the same amount of public acclaim as when she starred opposite Harold Lockwood.[9] Her last film before retiring was 1927's The Telephone Girl, opposite Madge Bellamy and Warner Baxter.[5]

Allison was secretly married to Col. William Stephenson in Santa Ana, California, in December 1919, but the marriage was annulled in February 1920. On Thanksgiving day in 1920,[10] Allison married writer and actor Robert Ellis.[11] Allison filed for divorce from Ellis in December 1923, citing cruelty as the reason. Her filing explained the couple had married on November 25, 1920 in Greenwich, Connecticut and were separated about November 5, 1923. [12] On November 15, 1926, witnessed by Ivan and Adela Rogers St. Johns, she married Photoplay magazine editor James R. Quirk,[13][2] a union that lasted until his death in 1932.[14]

Allison's last marriage, to Cleveland industrialist Carl Norton Osborne, took place on March 2, 1934[15] and lasted until his death in 1982. In her later years, Allison spent much of her time at her vacation home in Tucker's Town, Bermuda, and was a patron of the Cleveland Orchestra.[14]


Allison died of respiratory failure in Bratenahl, Ohio, in 1989 at the age of 98, survived by a stepdaughter and four stepgrandchildren.[2] She was buried at the Gates Mills South Cemetery in Gates Mills, Ohio.[16]

Selected filmography

Allison (left) with Helen Taft.
Still of Harold Lockwood and Allison in the 1916 silent drama Big Tremaine.


  1. ^ "May Allison". TCM. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d "Obituaries: May Allison". Variety. April 12–18, 1989. p. 117. ProQuest 1438521099. May Allison Osborne, 98, silent film actress, died March 27 of respiratory failure in Bratenahl, Ohio. Born in Rising Fawn, Ga., she moved to Hollywood where, in 1915, she made her film debut in the Theda Bara movie 'A Fool There Was.' [...] Survived by a stepdaughter and four stepgrandchildren.
  3. ^ "United States Census, 1900", , FamilySearch ( : Thu Oct 05 18:57:54 UTC 2023), Entry for Sam S Allison and Nannie E Allison, 1900.
  4. ^ Lee, Erma Conkling; Wiley, Henry C. (1928). The Biographical Cyclopaedia of American Women, Volume III. New York: Williams Wiley Publications. pp. 269, 274.
  5. ^ a b Commire, Anne (1999). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications. p. 241. ISBN 9780787640804.
  6. ^ J. O. L. (July 12 1914). "Theatre Arts". The Baltimore Sun. p. 4. Retrieved November 14, 2023.
  7. ^ Cozad, W. Lee (2002). Those Magnificent Mountain Movies: (The Golden Years) 1911-1939. Rim of the World Historical Society Publication. p. 47. ISBN 0-9723372-1-0.
  8. ^ Bodeen, DeWitt (1976). From Hollywood : The Careers of 15 Great American Stars. South Brunswick N.J. : A. S. Barnes. p. 74. ISBN 0-498-01346-4.
  9. ^ Bodeen, op. cit., p. 77.
  10. ^ "From the Studios". The Kansas City Star. Missouri, Kansas City. September 25, 1921. p. 56. Retrieved August 26, 2020 – via
  11. ^ "May—Married!". Photoplay. Vol. 21, no. 3. February 1922. pp. 62–63 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ "May Allison Sues For Divorce on Cruelty Charges". Evening Star. Washington, DC. December 4, 1923. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  13. ^ "May Allison Wed by James Quirk". New York Daily News. p. 39. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  14. ^ a b Slide, Anthony (February 26, 2011). Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers. Jacksonville: University Press of Mississippi. p. 65. ISBN 978-1604734133.
  15. ^ "Former May Ellison Married at Elkton". The Baltimore Sun. p. 2. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  16. ^ "Inside the Enclaves". Cleveland Magazine. June 20, 2007. Retrieved April 26, 2021.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 November 2023, at 03:50
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