Thelma Hill's Story


Thelma Hill was born Thelma Floy Hillerman in Emporia, Kansas on December 12, 1904 (other sources claim she was born in 1906). Her father Clifford Hillerman was a railroad worker and her mother Gussie was a housewife. When she was an infant her parents divorced and her mother was given full custody. Sadly her father passed away in 1914. Meanwhile Thelma and her mother moved to California and opened a cafe. They lived at 1723 Sunset Boulevard which was just a few blocks from the Mack Sennett studios. Thelma dreamed of becoming an actress and hung around by the studio gates trying to getting noticed. While working in her mother's cafe she met actor Fatty Arbuckle who helped her get a screen test.

Thelma in 1919


Fifteen year old Thelma started working as an extra at Mack Sennett's studio. The petite brunette appeared in dozens of movies and was chosen to be one of Sennett's famous bathing beauties. She was very popular at the studio where everyone called her "Pee Wee". Thelma befriended actress Marie Prevost who became her mentor. After posing in a mah jongg themed bathing suit she was nicknamed the "Mah Jongg Bathing Girl". She starred alongside Ben Turpin a several comedy shorts including The Prodigal Bridegroom and The Pride Of Pikeville. When she wasn't making movies Thelma worked as Mabel Normand's stand-in. In 1927 she had a supporting role in the Marion Davies movie The Fair Co-Ed.



 The following year she was given the lead role in a series of short films based on the comic strip Toots And Casper. Mack Sennett signed Thelma to a new long term contract in 1929. She seemed destined for stardom but her career stalled with the talkies. Thelma appeared in a few more short films and had a small role in Frank Capra's The Miracle Woman. She fell in love with writer St. Elmo Boyce. Unfortunately he was an alcoholic and during their romance Thelma started drinking. The couple planned to get married but tragically on September 30, 1930 St. Elmo Boyce committed suicide. Thelma was devastated and began to drink even more. In 1934 she married Johnny Sinclair, an actor and stunt double for W.C. Fields.


They moved into a modest house at 8229 Blackburn Avenue in Los Angeles. Thelma stopped making movies and tried to start a new life as a housewife. Unfortunately she and her husband were both alcoholics. In early 1938 Thelma had a nervous breakdown and entered the Merrill sanitarium in Santa Monica. She was suffering from chronic alcoholism and a severe vitamin deficiency. Sadly Thelma died from a cerebral hemorrhage on May 11, 1938. She was only thirty-three years old. Her body was cremated but her were ashes were never buried. Today Thelma's remains are being kept in a storage closet at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Thelma Hill was a beautiful woman and a talented actress but sadly she could not overcome her personal demons.