Zeffie Tilbury

Zeffie Agnes Lydia Tilbury (20 November 1863 – 24 July 1950) was an English-American actress.[1][2]

Zeffie Tilbury
Zeffie Tilbury.jpg
Tilbury as Grandma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Zeffie Agnes Lydia Tilbury

(1863-11-20)20 November 1863
Died24 July 1950(1950-07-24) (aged 86)
Years active1917–1942
Spouse(s)L. E. Woodthorpe (?–1915) (his death)
Arthur Frederick Lewis (1887–?)

Early yearsEdit

Born in Paddington, Middlesex, England, Tilbury was the only child of the variety performer Lydia Thompson and John Christian Tilbury, a riding-master, who died in a steeplechasing accident in 1864, when he was rolled on by his horse.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Tilbury was married twice. First to Arthur Frederick Lewis in June, 1887, and later to L. E. Woodthorpe, who died on 8 April 1915. She died in Los Angeles, California in 1950 at the age of 86.[4]


Cigarette card from the 1880s

Tilbury was known first on the London stage and on Broadway in New York City.[5] In 1881, she debuted on stage in Nine Points of the Law at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, England.[6]

She is today best known for playing wise or evil older characters in films, such as the distinguished lady gambler at dinner with Garbo in The Single Standard, as the pitiful Grandma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath and Grandma Lester in Tobacco Road.

She appeared in over 70 films.[4] Her earliest surviving silent film is the Valentino / Nazimova 1921 production of Camille. Tilbury is probably best remembered as the old lady who is befriended by Spanky and his friends on her birthday and, as a result, is transformed from a lonely, disagreeable recluse to a happy and loving carefree soul in the 1936 Hal Roach Our Gang comedy Second Childhood. In the same year she also portrayed the Gypsy Queen in the Laurel and Hardy film The Bohemian Girl.


Year Title Role Notes
1917 Blind Man's Luck Mrs. Guerton
1919 The Avalanche Mrs. Ruyler Lost film
A Society Exile Mrs. Stanley Shelby
1920 Mothers of Men Mrs. De La Motte
Clothes Mrs. Cathcart Lost film
1921 The Marriage of William Ashe Lady Tranmore
Big Game
Camille Prudence
1924 Another Scandal Brownie Lost film
1927 The Night of Love Lady in Waiting Uncredited
1929 The Single Standard Mrs. Handley
1930 The Ship from Shanghai Lady Daley
1931 Charlie Chan Carries On Mrs. Luce Lost film
1933 Made on Broadway Aunt Ada Uncredited
Blind Adventure Uncredited
1934 Two Alone Rogers' Neighbor Uncredited
Mystery Liner Granny Plimpton
Bachelor Bait Miss Turner Uncredited
1935 Women Must Dress Peg Martin
The Mystery of Edwin Drood The Opium Woman
Werewolf of London Mrs. Moncaster
Public Hero No. 1 Deaf Woman in Scottsdale Bar Uncredited
Stranded Old Hag Uncredited
The Farmer Takes a Wife Old Townswoman Uncredited
Alice Adams Mrs. Dresser Uncredited
Navy Wife Bridge Player Uncredited
The Last Days of Pompeii The Wise Woman
Bad Boy Deaf Woman Uncredited
1936 The Bohemian Girl Gypsy Queen
Desire Aunt Olga
Second Childhood Grandma Short
Parole! Molly Smith Uncredited
The White Angel Woman Donating Sheets Uncredited
Anthony Adverse Old Woman at Chalet Uncredited
The Gorgeous Hussy Mrs. Daniel Beall
Give Me Your Heart Esther Warren
Old Hutch Elderly Woman in Bank Uncredited
Camille Old Duchess Bidding 3750 Francs Uncredited
After the Thin Man Aunt Lucy Uncredited
1937 Under Cover of Night Mrs. Nash
Bulldog Drummond Escapes Jail Cell Drunk Uncredited
Maid of Salem Goody Rogers
Midnight Taxi Mrs. Lane Uncredited
Parnell Old Lady Uncredited
Rhythm in the Clouds Maggie Conway - the Duchess de Lovely
Hideaway Mrs. Beamish Uncredited
Fit for a King Duchess Louise - Reception Guest Uncredited
Bulldog Drummond Comes Back Effie
It Happened in Hollywood Miss Gordon
Federal Bullets Mrs. Crippen
1938 Bulldog Drummond's Peril Mrs. Weevens
Kidnapped Old Woman Uncredited
Hunted Men Flower Woman Uncredited
Woman Against Woman Grandma
Marie Antoinette Dowager at Birth of Dauphin Uncredited
Block-Heads Dowager Seated Near Stairs (scenes deleted)
Arrest Bulldog Drummond Aunt Meg
1939 Boy Trouble Mrs. Jepson
The Story of Alexander Graham Bell Mrs. Sanders
Tell No Tales Miss Mary
Lady of the Tropics Woman Congratulating Manon Uncredited
Balalaika Princess Natalya Petrovna
1940 Emergency Squad Mrs. Cobb Uncredited
The Earl of Chicago Miss Nana Uncredited
The Grapes of Wrath Grandma Joad
Comin' Round the Mountain Granny Stokes
She Couldn't Say No Ma Hawkins
1941 Tobacco Road Grandma Lester
Sheriff of Tombstone Granny Carson
1942 Flying with Music Fortune Teller Uncredited, (final film role)


  1. ^ Zeffie Tilbury profile at Probert Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Zeffie Tilbury profile at Cinemorgue
  3. ^ Gänzl, Kurt. Lydia Thompson in Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre, Blackwell/Schirmer (1994)
  4. ^ a b Zeffie Tilbury, The Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ "Classical Plays: Souvenirs and Portraits", Rob Wilton Theatricalia
  6. ^ Nissen, Axel (2016). Accustomed to Her Face: Thirty-Five Character Actresses of Golden Age Hollywood. McFarland. p. 192. ISBN 9781476626062. Retrieved 21 May 2018.

External linksEdit