Thelma Hill
born: 12 December 1904
Emporia, Kansas,
United States of Ameirca
died: 11 May 1938
Culver City, Los Angeles, California,
United States of America
(cerebral hemorrhage, age 33)

Brunette American actress who was an on-screen 'flapper' for Mack Sennett. She sometimes doubled for an unreliable Mabel Normand, and later married John Sinclair, W.C. Fields' stunt double and gag writer. Her heavy drinking and depression led to a premature death at the age of just 33. Her body was cremated and her ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Her Dad was Clifford R. Hillerman (1875-1914) and her Mom, Gussie A. Knittel (1875-1954). He worked for the railroad and moved around a lot. They lived in and married in Salt Lake City, UT in 1899 and soon moved to Emporia, KS where both had grown up and had extended families. Cliff was a musician in the community orchestra and started his own clothes cleaning business. Gussie's Mom was tragically killed in a house fire in 1902. Evidently, by then the marriage was already "falling apart". In her divorce filing (April 13, 1905 newspaper), Gussie claims that "since her marriage he has not supported her; that she was compelled to rely upon her brothers and parents for support... that he would come home in a state of intoxication and that he used rough words, and that he spent his money for liquor and other women." She asks for a divorce and the custody of the child, who is 4 months old. Her maiden name was Miss Knittel. (This matches a 12 Dec 1904 birth date.)
In the divorce filing, Gussie also alleged that Clifford "...eloped recently with Mrs. Dan Holman, a young widow (whose) husband was a Santa Fe fireman who (5 month ago) was killed in a switch engine collision in the yards... and thrown into the fire box head first and burned to death. Mrs. Holman received $6,000 shortly before the alleged elopement; the couple are now living in California."
The 01 Mar 1905 KS State Census has "Thelma Knittel age 5 months" living with "Gussie Hillerman" and her brother's family without Clifford Hillerman. This gives credence to her "non-support" claim and a 1904 birth year but earlier month.
In Sep. 1914, Clifford was a new employee at a Kansas City sand quarry. He was sitting on a barge, dangling his legs over the edge when another barge bumped into it and crushed both his legs, enough to amputate one. They rushed him to the hospital and he died soon after. I couldn't find exact date or cause. Gussie usually called herself a "widow" after the divorce even when Clifford was still living.
In Sep. 1924, Mack Sennett "crowned" Thelma Hill "the ideal bathing girl". All her physical measurements were given including her height of "5 feet 3 and one-half inches" (and 34" bust). Most sources list her as between 5'0" - 5'1". Some sources list her birth year of 1906.

A very nice blog dedicated to the actress can be found at
Real name: Thelma Floy Hillerman
Height: 5'3½"
Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography;
plus 1 film with Babe Hardy; 1 film with Stan Laurel.


Two Tars
Brunette girl

Dumb Daddies

Mixed Nuts

Girl in club

Crazy To Act
Mrs. Whipple, the domineering wife

http://thelmahill1938. (good bio with minor errors: disproves 1906 birth) (1899 Parents' marriage) (Census 1900 Parents) (01 Mar 1905 KS State Census) (Age 4 Mos: divorce filing (public div.notice: name "Thelma Floy") (Census 1910 (Smelser) (Census 1920 w/Mom) (Census 1930 w/Mom) (Gussie's bio w/minor errors) (Clifford's bio w/minor errors) (1924 Mack Sennett ideal bathing girl measurements)
Jim Jarvis (research and information)

This page was last updated on: 31 December 2017