Ellen Burford
born: 30 September 1888
Jackson, Tennessee,
United States of America
died: 19 April 1960
St. John's Hospital,
Santa Monica, California,
United States of America
(pancreatic cancer, age 71)
American silent screen actress who starred as the leading lady in a handful of Billy West/Oliver Hardy films in 1917.
She briefly appears naked (topless) in a bathtub in The Chief Cook, though most prints of this film have the footage edited/cut out.  The screenshots are shown at the foot of this page.

Some detective work from Jim Jarvis, Chicago....

She changed her acting name back to CASSITY/CASSIDY upon leaving Vim and Billy West.
CASSIDY started film 1916 (1 credit) then nothing released 1917.  Starting 1918 to 1923 (17 more film credits).  BURFORD started film 1917 (4 film credits) all BILLY WEST's.  No other credits--did she retire? No, changed her name back to her original and actual married name used in 1916. She left Famous Players LASKY in NJ (1 credit) to go to King-Bee in NJ and went from CASSIDY to BURFORD (4 credits--3 in NJ and 1 in CA). Then she left CA to go back to NY to care for her mother and act under the CASSIDY name.  Neither actress appeared in the same film although "both" worked for King-Bee (BILLY WEST and HARDY).

Where: Jackson, Tennessee
When: 30 Sep 1890 (CA Death Index says 1888-no parents given).
Stats: 5'6"; blue eyes; blond hair; fair complexion (passport).

1921 Motion Picture Studio Dir;5'6 1/2";135 lbs;dark grey eyes; blond hair.
Died: 19 April 1960 Los Angeles County (probably Hollywood)
CA Death Index--LA City Directory 1960 says she lived at 601 Hillcrest Rd., Hollywood.

Married: BENJAMIN R. CASSITY 24 Oct 1905 in Jeffersonville, IN (a suburb of Louisville, KY). She was young and IN has "looser" marriage requirements. (Indiana Marriages at ancestry.com and US Passport Applications (Sep 1923)@ ancestry.com)

BENJAMIN worked as a "shipping clerk--department store" in Louisville in the 1910 Census. He died before the 1920 Census, probably before 1915 when bio says she "ran away" from her "socially prominent parents" in Louisville to go on the stage in NY.

BURFORD LAWRENCE CASSITY b.14 May 1907 (KY) d. 22 Aug 1956 in Los Angeles Co, (probably Hollywood) age 49.He graduated college and became a wealthy and successful owner/president of Casray Oil Corp. in Houston, TX. Ray is his wife's maiden name and they had a baby girl in 1939.

In the 1920's she lived at 370 Central Park West and (and 471 and 480) which are upscale addresses.

In the 1930's, she additionally had a residence in Hot Springs, VA (Roaring Brook Farm) and a rental apartment in Palm Beach, FL. (various Passenger Manifests @ancestry)

In 1923, after retiring from movies, she traveled extensively to Europe and the Middle-east. The manifest from the trip she made in 1929 (and subsequent) say that she was married, but I haven't found his name. He probably died (or divorced) before 1952 because she is living with her son and his wife (CAMILLA) at 807 Elm Dr., Hollywood. (1952 & 1954 Voter's Registrations @ ancestry under CASSITY name)

By 1955, she is living at 601 Hillcrest Dr, Hollywood under the CASSITY name and the same in 1960. (1955 & 1960 Hollywood City Directories @ancestry.com.

In Jan 1918, CASSITY appeared on Broadway in "Words and Music" directed by LEON ERROL.

A publicity anecdote in 1917 says that ELLEN CASSIDY is the wife of BILLY WEST.  But BILLY WEST (ROY B. WEISSBERG) was married 22 Jan 1916 (Cook County Marriage Index at ancestry.com)
But there's more: The woman he married in 1916 was ETHELYN STROUSE-----not GIBSON.  BILLY married again in 1933. On the Marriage Certificate, she is a 25 year old "widow" and he states that he is "divorced" and this is his "2nd marriage".  California Death Index at vitalsearch.com states "LAURA GIBSON WEISSBERG" B.14 Oct 1893 in PA; Mother's maiden name GREENEWALT; died 3 Jan 1985 Orange Co, CA.
I've found such a LAURA MARIE GIBSON in the 1900 PA Census whose mother's maiden name was GREENAWALT but I can't "get her out" of PA and connected to WEISSBERG! She was orphaned about age 15 and didn't go to live with he brothers or sister OR her maiden aunt, MARGARET GREENAWALT. It seems that LAURA went to "The Good Shepherd" girls orphanage in WV, but I can't connect her to WEISSBERG.  Maybe that one never came up because I was searching Roy/Billy with the 1892-93 birth year; his birth year is given as 1894 here!
1900 Census gives "Ella's" birthdate as September 1888 (if this is our Ella/Ellen).

Boy, if Billy and Ellen were hitched, it had to have been brief! That is, unless it was a publicity thing.
I have to wonder though: if Billy and Ethelyn lived in (or at least married in) Illinois in 1916, did they just move back after King Bee folded?

In January 2018, Ellen's granddaughter (Ellen Harvey) offered this information: "I lived with her & my parents from the late '40s in Beverly Hills, and with her after my father's death in '56, until my first marriage in Sept. of '59. She is buried, as is my father, in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, not the new one. After my grandfather's early death she married a Wall St. banker, Max Horowitz. They separated (divorced?) some years later, and my parents and siblings moved with her to Beverly Hills in the late 1940s. That location was chosen because of the excellent public school system. Just a tidbit; my father's first name was Burford, which she used as well in film as I found out on your site. She and my father owned racehorses which ran on the California circuit. Their stable name, and corporate name as well, was ELCAS: 'El' for Ellen, &'CAS' for Casey, the nickname of my father.
Real name: Ellen Louise Eastburn
Height: 5'6"
Films listed on this page: all films with Babe Hardy.



The Slave
[unidentified character]

The Chief Cook
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/

The Candy Kid
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/

The Fly Cop

DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Ellen Burford is naked in the bathtub in "The Chief Cook" (1917).  Most prints of the film omit this scene.

http://www.archive.org/stream/movewor34chal#page/n95/mode/1up (The Moving Picture World - October 6, 1917)
Rob Stone (help and assistance)
Jim Jarvis, Jesse Brisson (fantastic detective work)
Ellen Harvey (her granddaughter, who provided correct year of birth, cause and location of death)

This page was last updated on: 11 January 2018