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|Born||Thelma Floy Hillerman
December 12, 1906
|Died||May 11, 1938
Culver City, California
|Cause of death||Cerebral hemorrhage caused by alcoholism|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park|
Early life and career
Born Thelma Floy Hillerman in Emporia, Kansas, she was one of the few Sennett Bathing Beauties to make it into featured roles. Hill was widely known as the "mah jongg bathing girl" because of the mah jongg bathing suit she was photographed in.
After her parents divorced Thelma moved to California where her mother opened a cafe down the road from the Sennett studios. She was discovered by Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle when she was serving him and dropped soup in his lap. Arbuckle introduced her to Mack Sennett who made her one of his bathing beauties. In a 1924 article Sennett declared she was the "ideal bathing beauty of her time".
She made her film debut as a bathing girl in the 1924 comedy short Picking Peaches. She would appear in more than 100 films during her career mostly for the Sennett and Hal Roach studios. She was featured with Ralph Graves in a series of two-reel comedies that were made for Sennett on Glendale Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. As she became older, Hill began to double for Mabel Normand.
Hill starred opposite Ben Turpin in A Prodigal Bridegroom (1926). From 1927 to 1929, she co-starred with Bud Duncan in Larry Darmour's series of silent comedy shorts Toots and Casper and was Laurel & Hardy's leading lady in Two Tars (1928). She completed her FBO contract in 1927 and was signed by MGM for a role in The Fair Co-Ed (1927). Her final role was in the Hal Roach talkie Mixed Nuts.
Thelma's father, musician Clifford Hillerman, died in 1914. She was engaged to director St. Elmo Boyce until he committed suicide in 1930. In 1934 she married John West Sinclair, a stunt man and gag writer for W.C. Fields
By 1932 she had gotten on the dark side of depression and alcohol abuse. She entered Edward Merrill Sanitarium in Culver City, California in late 1937. She was suffering from alcoholism, a vitamin deficiency, and malnutrition. She died on May 11, 1938 at the age of 31 from a cerebral hemorrhage.
- Picking Peaches (1924)
- The Hollywood Kid (1924)
- The Fair Co-Ed (1927)
- The Pride Of Pikeville (1927)
- Fooling Casper (1927)
- Crazy To Act (1927)
- Two Tars (1928)
- The Old Barn (1931)
- The Miracle Woman (1931)
- Mixed Nuts (1934)
- Los Angeles Times, Additions To Cast, August 13, 1924, Page A9.
- Los Angeles Times, Bathing Girl Given Lead In New Comedy, August 17, 1924, Page B33.
- Los Angeles Times, Thelma Hill, Former Sennett Player, Dies, May 12, 1938, Page A20.
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