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. Thelma and her mother moved to Los Angeles, California and opened a cafe. They lived 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 Mack Sennett's studio. She had a fabulous figure and was chosen to be one of Sennett's famous bathing beauties. After posing in a mah jongg themed bathing suit she was nicknamed the "Mah Jongg Bathing Girl". Thelma appeared in dozens of movies including The Hollywood Kid, Yukon Jake, and Picking Peaches. She befriended actress Marie Prevost who became her mentor. By 1926 Thelma was getting featured roles in comedies like The Divorce Dodger and Hoboken To Hollywood. She starred alongside Ben Turpin the films The Prodigal Bridegroom and The Pride Of Pikeville. Thelma was very popular at the Sennett studio where everyone called her "Pee Wee". When she wasn't making movies she  worked as Mabel Normand's stand-in.



 In 1927 she had a supporting role in the The Fair Co-Ed with Marion Davies. 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 costarred with Andy Clyde in the comedies The Old Barn and The Golfers. Thelma seemed destined for stardom but her career stalled. She fell in love with writer St. Elmo Boyce and the couple planned to get married. Unfortunately he was an alcoholic and during their romance Thelma started drinking. Tragically on September 30, 1930 St. Elmo Boyce committed suicide. Thelma was devastated by his death and began to drink even more. In 1932 she had a small role in Frank Capra's drama The Miracle Woman. Her final film was the 1934 Hal Roach comedy Mixed Nuts.




Thelma married Johnny Sinclair, an actor and writer for W.C. Fields. They moved into a modest home in Los Angeles and Thelma tried to start a new life as a housewife. Unfortunately she and her husband were both alcoholics. In late 1937 Thelma had a nervous breakdown and entered a 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. Thelma Hill was a beautiful woman and a gifted comedienne but she couldn't overcome her personal demons.