|born: May 1892
United States of America
|died: (after 03 August 1959)
Blond, blue-eyed American actress who often appeared in the films of one-time real-life husband Billy West.
She was born Ethel Strouse to Lucy M. (Ward) and Horatio S. (aka Robert or Rubin) Strouse, who married in Knox County, Ohio on 03 November 1888. She had four brothers: Harry (1889-1972), Levi Ward (1894-1977), Frank (1897-1969), and George W. (1899-1984). Both parents and all children were born in Ohio. (Note: There was also, oddly, a Mary C. Strouse, born to Lucy [Ward] and "Rush" Strouse in 21 July 1889 -- three months before Harry's 25 Oct birth -- in Clark Township, Ohio; some of Harry's records say he was born in Blissfield, Ohio, a community within Clark Township.)
The 1900 Census gives Ethel's birth date as May 1892, while the 1905 New Jersey State Census gives her birthdate as Oct 1891 (the 1905 NJ Census also gives a differing Jan 1890 birth for the Oct 1889-born Harry, as well as adding a year to Levi and Frank's birth dates). Seeing as the dates given for Ethel's brothers in the 1900 Census are more accurate, I am going with May 1892 for her birthdate above. The 1900 Census places the Strouse family in Newark, NJ, the 1905 NJ Census in Harrison, Hudson County; the 1910 Census, by which time the father had passed, places the "Strauss" [sic] family back in Newark, and claims (falsely) that Ethel and her younger brother Levi are twins, giving their ages as 18. Ethelyn's bio in the 1918 Motion Picture News Studio Directory mentions that she was born in Akron, Ohio (though it's possibly more likely to have been Blissfield or Brinkhaven) and educated in Newark, NJ.
A 1917 bio mentions she made her stage debut in 1914 with the Ziegfeld Follies, and she entered pictures with Unicorn in 1916.
On 22 January 1916, Ethelyn Strouse (20 yrs old) married Roy B. Weisberg (Billy West) (22 yrs old) in Chicago, Illinois. Four years later, come the 1920 Census, Roy B. (age 27, b. Russia) and Ethel M. [sic] Weisberg (age 23, b. OH) are living in Chicago (59 North Ave.) and are acting in motion pictures.
A November 1920 article claims Ethelyn Gibson is "a niece of the famous artist by that name" (Charles Dana Gibson, I assume). Given that Ethelyn's real name was "Strouse," I believe this to be publicity fluff. Between 1926 and 1928, Ethelyn starred as the comics character "Winnie Winkle" in a series of short comedies for Weiss Brothers/Artclass Pictures. These comedies were directed by Billy and written by the comics' original author Martin Branner.
On 11 May 1928, Billy West was granted an interlocutory divorce decree from Ethelyn, charging that she had deserted him five years prior and that a reconciliation attempt during that time had failed. He also filed an unsuccessful $100,000 "heart balm suit" against Michael Glaser, aka L. Glaser, for alienation of affections, charging that Glaser "lured his wife from him in 1923, promising her more luxuries than the comedian could provide." (More on Mr. Glaser below...)
In mid-late 1929, Ethelyn was appearing in newspaper ads for the herbal drug Flaxolyn. According to the ad, she had a complete breakdown due to the stress of her work on stage and screen, her condition only aggravated after she fell off a horse. Her condition apparently improved through the use of Dr. Harris H. Luntz's Herbal Flaxolyn Formula. The ad states that she is living in the Villa Maria Apts. in Hollywood (I could not find her there -- 633 N Berendo -- in the 1929 and 1930 L.A. City Directories).
In March 1930, Ethelyn filed a $350,000 breach of promise suit against wealthy Los Angeles broker Leon Glaser -- the same Michael Glaser/L. Glaser who swept her away from hubby. On November 5, 1926, Ethelyn and Glaser signed a marriage contract before a notary public; she also alleged "that he made repeated promises [to marry her] until last May ," and that they had even set a date of 04 June 1929. However, in July 1929, Glaser instead married Betty Cohen, daughter of a diamond merchant, leading to Ethelyn's suit. Glaser answered that Ethelyn had deceived him with regards to her age. On May 5, Ethelyn agreed to withdraw the suit "on the payment of a 'favorable' sum."
In late 1931, Ethelyn was apparently stressing out again, as she appears in another drug ad, this time for nerve medication Vreem, initially "developed during the War [WWI] to calm the nerves of shell-shocked, war-torn soldiers." In addition to her work with Billy West and as "Winnie Winkle," this ad also mentions her being leading lady to western star Hoot GIbson. Known information on Ethelyn's whereabouts dries up for nearly 30 years until all the way in August 1959, where a newspaper announced that Ethlyn Gibson, the former "Winnie Winkle," had just entered her tenth week performing at the Scollay Lounge, a Boston nightclub. A photo of her is included, and it does indeed appear to be a legit, older Ethelyn. After this, she disappears once more...
In 1938, 20-year old "tomboy" Ethel "Bunny" Sohl and her friend Genevieve "Chippy" Owens were sentenced to life in prison when Ethel killed a Newark bus driver after refusing to pay a $2.10 fare (Ethel reasoned in court, "It seemed the right thing to do"). They were spared the death penalty by pleading "legal insanity," assessing their state of mind at the time of the murder was influenced by marijuana. After serving 21 years, Ethel was given a job as a herdsman at the farm of Lloyd Wescott, a New Jersey philanthropist and chairman of the New Jersey State Board of Control of Institutions and Agencies, who gave jobs to former inmates from the women's prison, in Hunterdon County, NJ. Referred to by Wescott as "our transvestite murderess," Ethel proved "a reliable worker and loyal friend" who worked on the farm for more than 20 years, and passed away in 2001.
Here's the relevant part of this info: Ethel's real name was Ethelyn Strouse - she was our Ethelyn's niece, specifically the daughter of Ethelyn's younger brother Frank, a Newark police officer. Per a 2017 comment on a New Jersey history blog by Ethel's great niece, the younger Ethelyn was named after her aunt.
Note: some sources incorrectly list her birth as 08 May 1897, Belmont, Ohio - and death as 18 October 1972.
Real name: Ethel Strouse
Films listed on this page: all films with Babe Hardy;
plus all films with Charley Chase.