Clifford Silsby

born: 15 August 1896
New Haven, Connecticut,
United States of America
died: 22 November 1986
Los Angeles, California,
United States of America
(age 90)

American actor. The 1910 Census (Chicago), the earliest record found, says he was born in New York and his sister, Rose, born in Connecticut. This is probably an error. His parents were Austrian (sometimes German) immigrants, Hyman (1869-1908) and Rebecca Friedman (1873/76- ??). She also was called Rebecka, Becky, Beckie, and Bessie. The Dad worked as a shoemaker in Boston (1899) but died as a tailor in Chicago (1908).
About 1908, in Chicago, Isidore was "adopted" by the successful, well-established Chicago artist, Wilson Silsby (1881/3/4 - 1952). This information comes from Clifford's and Wilson's 1921 passport applications. There are sworn depositions from Wilson and the biological mother stating Clifford's birth and that he was "raised" by Silsby since Clifford was 12 years old (c.1908). Wilson was about 13 years older than Clifford at the time! The depositions do not use the word "adopted" in relation to Clifford and census, military draft, and passenger travel records refer to Clifford as Wilson's "son", "adopted son" and "step-son". After the father died, the young mother was left with five young children to raise, the oldest 12 and the youngest 4.
About 1913, Wilson and Clifford moved to Los Angeles. "The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia" has Clifford acting in 2 films during August of 1915. The 1916 & 1917 LA City Directories have him as "property man" (no company given) and Wilson is the "technical director" for the Rolin Film Company. In the 1918 Directory, Cliff is listed as "sign writer" (no company given) and a 1918 & 1919 Motion Picture Directory has Wilson still at Rolin as technical director.
In June & September of 1918, both were registered for the Draft and working for Universal Film: Cliff as "painter" and Wilson as "supt". Both men travelled to Europe in 1921 and 1932. Clifford to study art and Wilson opened galleries in London, Paris, and Los Angeles. Clifford was a successful "artist/photographer" working for a motion picture company in 1940 (Census) earning $5,000. They lived and worked together as father and son until Wilson's 1952 death. Without attribution, Kevin Daniel says Clifford married fellow, successful female artist, Murray Wilcox Silsby. The art works of both men are still sold and collected today.

Author Notes:
The "Friedman" surname and variations were about as common as "Smith" in Chicago and New York at that time, making it difficult to sort out the various families. The childrens' given names were repeated over and over within the families.
Believe it or not, there were 2 Hyman Friedman's who died in Chicago in 1908 (April and October) who were married to Rebecca's! I chose as Clifford/Isidore's Dad, the Hyman who died in April of 1908. Lacking newspaper obituaries, I used the death certificate transcriptions, Chicago City Directories 1907-1912 and the 1910 Census. These also showed that "Bessie Friedman" and "Becky Friedman" were the same person. One Hyman Friedman was aged 51, born in Russia, a meat commodity agent and lived in Chicago since 1878. The Hyman I chose for Clifford's Dad was age 39, born in Austria, a tailor and lived in Chicago since 1899.
From the 1917 Motion Picture Studio Directory & Trade Annual p.177.
"SILSBY, W.E., technical director; b. Chicago, 1883; educ. Chicago, N.Y. and abroad; early career, 17 yrs. designing and building scenery; scenic artist Metropolitan Op. House; had own scenic studio, 1912; produced "The Rosary," "The Silver Box," "Justice," "The Pigeon" first time in America; painted mural decorations for Chicago Fed. Bldg., Chicago Pub. Library; wrote novel, "Woman with Red Hair"; composed dances for "The Silver Slipper"; screen career, Universal, Rolin, Max Figman. Ad., home, 1432 Waterloo st., Los Angeles. Studio, Rolin, Los Angeles."
Real name: Clifford F. Silsby [adoptive name]
Height: 5'7"
Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography.


Great While It Lasted

A Foozle At The Tee Party

Luke Rides Roughshod

Acknowledgements & sources:
The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd (book) (both Silsby bios well done by Kevin Daniel w/ Photos: Scroll down abt 1/4th way) (1899 Jun: Boston birth of his sister Sadie) (1908 Apr: Death Record Hyman Friedman: Dad of Clifford) (1908 Oct: Death Record Hyman Friedman: NOT Dad of Clifford) (1915-1930 LA City Directories: Silsby addresses & occupations) (1917 Apr: studio bio Wilson: Mot Pic Studio Dir & Trade Annual) (1918 Jun: Draft Reg Clifford: b. 15 Aug 1896: New Haven, CT: painter, Universal) (1918 Sep: Draft Reg Wilson: b.1881: "supt." Universal) (1921 March: Passport Appl: Clifford Silsby photo: b.Isidore Friedman) (1921 March: Passport Appl: Wilson E. Silsby photo: b. Chi. 1883) (1910 Census Chicago: Beckie Friedman: widow w/5 kids) (1920 Census Chicago: Beckie Freedman 2122 Washburne Av: bc 1873) (1920 Census LA: Cliff scene painter Motion Pics: foster son) (1930 Census LA: "artist-studio": adopted son) (1940 Census LA: artist/photog-motion pic studio: son) (1942 Draft Reg.WWII: b.23 Jul 1896 (sic) (1952 Jan 17 LA: Death Cert.Wilson Silsby: Cliff informant) (1986 Nov.22 LA: death Clifford Silsby age 90)
Jim Jarvis (extensive research and biography notes)

This page was last updated on: 16 June 2020