Wilna Hervey (October 3, 1894 – March 6, 1979) was an American silent film actress and artist.
Known to friends and family as "Willie," Wilna Hervey was the only child of the marriage of William Russell Hervey and Anna Van Horn Traphagen. She grew up in affluent circumstances at Beach Ninth Street, Far Rockaway.
During her youth in late 1910s, Hervey studied at the Art Students League in New York City, Winold Reiss' studio at 4 Christopher Street, New York City, and in Woodstock, New York during the summer of 1918. Her acting career began with a few silent movie roles at the Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn as early as 1916; for her artistic pursuits Hervey adopted the professional name "Wilna Wilde."
Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason were artists, actresses and occasional house painters, staying together for 59 years. 6’3” Wilna found some success in silent films, playing rugged mountain girls and other hardy characters. She met Nan, the daughter of her frequent co-star Dan Mason, on a film set in 1920 and soon after they were never parted. From Woodstock, NY to Carmel, California, Wilna and Nan danced, sculpted, painted and played their way through many of America’s bohemian artist’s colonies.
Peter A. Juley & Sons/Archives of American Art. Nan Mason, American painter, 1896-1982, at work in her studio, Woodstock, New York
Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Nan Mason and Wilna Hervey in Italy, 1926
In 1919, she was cast in the role of "The Powerful Katrinka" in The Toonerville Trolley silent film series based on Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Folks comic strip, which was produced by Siegmund Lubin's Betzwood Motion Picture Studios in Pennsylvania. Much of the slapstick comedy in the series revolves around Hervey's imposing physical stature—she stood 6 feet 3 inches—in contrast with her diminutive male co-stars.
While Hervey was in Pennsylvania working on the production, she met the painter Nan Mason (1896-1982), the daughter of her co-star Dan Mason, who played the Skipper. Nan and Hervey became life partners, remaining together until Hervey's death in 1979.
When the Toonerville Trolley films ceased production in 1921, Hervey and Dan Mason reprised a version of their characters for the Plum Center Comedies, an unofficial knockoff comedy series produced by the Paul Gerson Pictures Corporation in California. This time Hervey played the "Amazonian baggage smasher" Tillie Overton, who was clearly inspired by the Powerful Katrinka.
Around 1919-1920, Hervey's father bought her a studio in Bearsville, New York. She and Nan Mason split their time between painting and farming in Woodstock, New York, and purusing acting opportunities in California, from 1922 to 1929. They became popular members of the Woodstock artists community, and both found some artistic success there during the 1960s. During the harsh New York winters they also spent time in Carmel, California and Manatee County, Florida.
After years of declining health in the 1970s, Hervey died at the Manatee Memorial Hospital near her Florida home on March 6, 1979. She is buried at Artists Cemetery, Woodstock, New York. Hervey's personal papers, which include an unpublished manuscript of her memoirs, are held at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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