Elmer Clifton

Elmer Clifton (March 14, 1890 – October 15, 1949) was an American writer, director and actor from the early silent days. A collaborator of D.W. Griffith, he appeared in The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916) before giving up acting in 1917 to concentrate on work behind the camera, with Griffith and Joseph Henabery as his mentors. His first feature-length solo effort as a director was The Flame of Youth with Jack Mulhall.

Elmer Clifton
Elmer Clifton.jpg
Born(1890-03-14)March 14, 1890
DiedOctober 15, 1949(1949-10-15) (aged 59)
Other namesElmer Forsyth
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter and actor
Years active1912–1950

Clifton honed his talents during the late 1910s, directing vehicles for Mulhall and Herbert Rawlinson at Universal and then for Dorothy Gish for Famous Players-Lasky. Two of his projects with Gish, Nobody Home and Nugget Nell, featured performances from pre-stardom Rudolph Valentino. Most of this early output has been lost.[1] He was the first filmmaker to discover the talents of Clara Bow, whom he cast in Down to the Sea in Ships, released on March 4, 1923.[2] The independently produced film was well reviewed for its visual authenticity.

During the 1920s, Clifton directed films for several different studios. During the filming of The Warrens of Virginia (1924) for Fox Film Corporation, lead actress Martha Mansfield suffered a fatal accident from burns when her costume caught fire. Clifton directed The Wreck of the Hesperus for Cecil B. deMille's production company, and filmed on location in the Grand Canyon for The Bride of the Colorado. He also directed some Technicolor short films, including Manchu Love with an all-Asian cast.[3]

In the sound era, Clifton wrote and directed many poverty row Westerns and "exploitation" classics, among them the anti-marijuana polemic Assassin of Youth (1937). He also directed the vice films Gambling with Souls (1936), Slaves in Bondage (1937) and City of Missing Girls (1941), all of which portrayed addiction and white slavery to some degree. His last film was Not Wanted (1949), which was finished by producer Ida Lupino when Clifton became ill and was unable to work anymore. He died in 1949 of a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after the film's release.

Selected filmographyEdit


Year Title
1917 The Midnight Man
1918 Hearts of the World
Battling Jane
The Eagle
1919 Peppy Polly
I'll Get Him Yet
Nugget Nell
1922 Down to the Sea in Ships
1923 Six Cylinder Love
1926 Wives at Auction
1928 Tropical Nights
1929 The Devil's Apple Tree
1935 Pals of the Range
Cyclone of the Saddle
1943 Days of Old Cheyenne
1944 Gangsters of the Frontier
1949 Not Wanted
1949 The Judge


Year Title Role Notes
1912 An Assisted Elopement Young Tom Richmond
1914 John Barleycorn Jack, 3rd period
Martin Eden Cub reporter
Burning Daylight: The Adventures of 'Burning Daylight' in Alaska Charley Bates
1915 The Birth of a Nation Phil - Stoneman's Elder Son
Strathmore Marc
The Fox Woman Marashida
The Lily and the Rose Allison Edwards
The Sable Lorcha Clyde
1916 The Missing Links Horace Gaylord
Acquitted Ned Fowler
The Little School Ma'am Wilbur Howard
Intolerance The Rhapsode
The Old Folks at Home Steve Coburn
1917 Nina, the Flower Girl Jimmie
1919 The Fall of Babylon The Rhapsode (final film role)


  1. ^ Golden, Eve; Golden Images: 41 Essays on Silent Film Stars; Jefferson: McFarland & Co; p 40. Web August 17th, 2012
  2. ^ "Real life story of Clara Bow", in sixteen parts, by Louella Parsons, published by San Antonio light, May 15 - June 4, 1931
  3. ^ Slide, Anthony; Silent Topics: Essays On Undocumented Areas Of Silent Film; Scarecrow Press; p. 37; Web August 17th, 2012

External linksEdit