Lola Lane was borne Dorothy H. Mulligan on May 21, 1906, in Macy, Indiana, to Lorenzo and Cora Mulligan. Her father worked as a dentist in addition to renting out parts of their 22-room home to Simpson College students. Her mother was a former reporter with dreams of becoming an actress, but her Methodist parents prevented her from pursuing a career in entertainment. Dorothy was one of five siblings, including Leotabel, Martha, Rosemary, and Priscilla.
Over the years, Dorothy grew up in Indianola, Iowa, where she accompanied silent films on the piano and sang in a flower shop. In fact, all of the Mulligan girls were fond of music. A rebellious child, she once shocked townspeople with a Charleston dance in front of a church that was concluding its Sunday service for the day. Her vocal talents were later discovered by Gus Edwards and she soon gained professional experience thereafter, including education at Simpson College’s conservatory.
It was Edwards who would change her name to Lola Lane and incorporate her in his touring production of Ritz Carlton Nights. By 1926, she and Leotabal—now Leota—worked in the Greenwich Village Follies. Leota was the first sister to leave home for New York, in pursuit of a career in entertainment. Dorothy soon followed and the sisters toured vaudeville circuits, later working on Broadway in The War Song. The Broadway show led to a screen test and Lane made her film debut in Speakeasy (1929).
Lane married five times. Her husbands were: Henry Clay Dunham, Lew Ayres, Alexander Hall, Roland West, and Robert Hanlon. She did not have any children.
The bulk of Lane’s films were produced by Warner Bros. and starred Priscilla and Rosemary. Among her successes were Good News (1930), Hollywood Hotel (1937), Marked Woman (1937), Torchy Blane in Panama (1938), Four Daughters (1938), Four Wives (1939), and Four Mothers (1941).
On-screen, Lane adopted a tough persona in films like Convicted Woman (1940), Gangs of Chicago (1940), and Miss V from Moscow (1942). Her final three films were an attempt to move on from typecasting, which included roles in Why Girls Leave Home (1945), Deadline at Dawn (1946), and They Made Me a Killer (1946). Lane retired from acting in 1946.
Interestingly, Lane’s name served to inspire another on-screen character. The comic book writer Jerry Siegel named Lois Lane—Superman’s girlfriend—after Lane.
In 1961, Lane converted to Catholicism, later receiving a Pope Pius medal for her dedication to the religious training of mentally challenged individuals.
Lane passed away on June 22, 1981, due to arterial disease and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California. She was 75 years old.
Today, there are some locations of relevance to Lane’s personal life. In 1910, the Mulligan family lived at 307 N. B St. in Washington, Iowa, which has since been razed.
By 1920, they moved to 405 W. Ashland Ave., Indianola, Iowa. The home stands to this day.
Simspon College remains at 701 N. C St., Indianola, Iowa.
In 1929, Lane lived at 6626 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles, California. The home has been subdivided into apartments.
Lane and her sisters are well remembered through their filmography, either working together or apart.