15 August 1896
New Haven, Connecticut,
United States of America
22 November 1986|
Los Angeles, California,
United States of America
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.
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]
|Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography.|