Filled Under: Ruth Clifford
Ruth Clifford was a silent film leading lady in Hollywood during the 1920’s and later a character actress in occasional talkies. Her career lasted over six decades, well into the television era.
Ruth Clifford was born February 17, 1900 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. She attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Narragansett, Rhode Island. After her mother died in 1911, Clifford moved to Los Angeles to live with her actress aunt. She got work as an extra and began her career at age fifteen at Universal with a substantial role in “Behind the Lines” (1916). Clifford had roles in several shorts the next couple years with her only lead role in a full length feature coming in 1917 in “Polly Put the Kettle On”. Clifford went on to play leads and second leads in over forty silents the next dozen years including the role of Abraham Lincoln’s lost love, Ann Rutledge, in “The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln” (1924). Other Clifford movies of note are; “The Savage” (1917) with Colleen Moore, “The Cabaret Girl” (1918), “Tropical Love” (1921), “The Dangerous Age” (1923), “Hell’s Hole” (1923), “Her Husband’s Secret” (1925), “Lew Tyler’s Wives” (1926) with Frank Mayo and Hedda Hopper, “The Thrill Seekers” (1927), and “The Eternal Woman” (1929) with Olive Borden.
With the advent of talkies, Ruth Clifford found her roles diminishing, and throughout the next three decades she played smaller and smaller parts, many of the uncredited. Clifford was a favorite of director John Ford (they played bridge together), who used her in eight films, but rarely in substantial roles. She was also, for a time, the voice of Walt Disney’s Minnie Mouse. During the 1950’s and 60’s Clifford turned to television with appearances in many programs including several appearances in “Fireside Theatre”, “Playhouse 90”, “Highway Patrol”, and “Dr. Kildare” to name a few. Her last appearance was in 1977 in an episode of “Police Story”. Late in life Clifford found herself in demand for documentary interviews on the subject of early Hollywood. All told, Clifford was able to sustain an acting career that lasted for sixty years with over 150 credits in silent film, talkies, and television.
Ruth Clifford was married to Beverly Hills real-estate developer James Cornelius in 1924. The couple had one child, a son. The marriage ended in divorce in 1938.
Ruth Clifford died November 30, 1998, age 98, in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California. She was interred in Culver City’s Holy Cross Cemetery.