Clara Williams

Clara Williams (May 3, 1888 May 8, 1928) was an American silent film actress. Along with Louise Glaum and Dorothy Dalton, she was one of the principal leading ladies at Inceville, one of the first motion picture studios to make feature films in Los Angeles. Williams appeared in more than one hundred films between 1910 and 1918, including starring roles in The Italian and William S. Hart's western, Hell's Hinges, both of which are included in the National Film Registry. When she married director Reginald Barker at age 31, she retired from acting.

Clara Williams
Portrait of Clara Williams
by Albert Witzel, 1917
Born(1888-05-03)May 3, 1888
DiedMay 8, 1928(1928-05-08) (aged 40)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Years active19101918
Reginald Barker (m. 19201928)

Early life and career

Clara Williams was born in Seattle, Washington, and made her screen debut in Western Chivalry in 1910. The following year, a half page article and photo of Williams was featured in the debut issue of Motion Picture Story magazine making her the first film actress to appear in a fan magazine.[1] The success of The Italian (1915), in which she played the wife of an immigrant, resulted in her being typecast in roles as Latin characters. In 1917, the Los Angeles Times noted, "Heretofore she has been known almost exclusively as a portrayer of Latin parts, simply because she was such success in that sort of a role in The Italian, in which she played the leading part opposite George Beban."[2]

In 1917, Williams and several other of the important actors and directors from Inceville left the studio to join the newly formed Paralta Company. The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Now that she is at the head of her own company and has the right to choose her own stories, she will have all the freedom in the world to show her versatility."[2] Williams first film with Paralta, and also the last film in her acting career, was a story of the Klondike Gold Rush, Carmen of the Klondike.[2][3]

During her years with the Triangle studios, Williams had become known for her many gowns, and the phrase "forty famous frocks" was coined to describe her wardrobe.[4] When Williams left Triangle for Paralta, the Los Angeles Times asked whether the famous frocks would move with her. It reported, "Clara is now in a quandary. She wants to get some more frocks, but if she does it will spoil the phrase 'forty famous frocks,' and that would never do."[4]

While working at the Ince studios, Williams met director Reginald Barker. He directed her in numerous films, including The Man from Oregon (1915), The Criminal (1916), Three of Many (1917), Paws of the Bear (1917), The One Woman (1918), and Carmen of the Klondike (1918), which was her last screen appearance. She married Barker in February 1920 and retired.[5]

Later years and death

In 1925, the Los Angeles Times interviewed the former movie star who the Times reported was "now just a housewife."[6] At the time, Williams said that she and her husband had never had a quarrel and defended her new domestic life by stating, "To me there is no comparison in the amount of pleasure to be enjoyed from home life as opposed to a career."[6]

In late February 1928, the Los Angeles Times reported that Williams had undergone a major surgery for an undisclosed condition at the California Lutheran Hospital.[7] On May 8, 1928, she died at her Los Angeles home at age 40 following what the media reported as "a prolonged illness."[5][8] She was survived by her husband and a brother. Her funeral was held at the Little Church of the Flowers, and her remains were cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[9]

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1910 Western Chivalry The Ranch Boss's Niece
1910 The Cowboy's Sweetheart Jennie
1910 The Millionaire and the Ranch Girl Nellie Blair
1910 A Cowboy's Vindication Faro Nan
1912 Over the Divide Nell Carter
1912 The Minister and the Outlaw Helen Page
1912 The Renegades Mrs. Jim Carson
1912 Bar K Foreman Nellie - the Rancher's Daughter
1913 The Love Token Mary Simpson
1913 On the Mountain Ranch Ethel Fordham
1913 The Witch of Salem
1913 Papita's Destiny Papita
1914 For the Wearing of the Green Norah Dwyer
1914 The Bells of Austi Mercedes
1914 His Hour of Manhood Anne Larson
1914 The Bargain Nell Brent Alternative title: The Two-Gun Man in the Bargain
1915 The Italian Annette Ancello Donnetti
1915 The Secret of the Dead Maria Carrillo
1915 The Devil Elsa
1915 When Love Leads Mary Dunning - the Elder Sister
1916 The Corner Mrs. Adams
1916 The Market of Vain Desire Helen Badgley
1916 Hell's Hinges Faith Henley
1916 Three of Many Nina Antinni
1917 Paws of the Bear Olga Raminoff
1918 Carmen of the Klondike Dorothy Harlan
1918 The One Woman Kate Ransom


  1. Slide, Anthony (2010). Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 18. ISBN 1-604-73414-0.
  2. "Clara Williams Wants Old Style". Los Angeles Times. November 4, 1917.
  3. "Carmen of the Klondike". Los Angeles Times. May 15, 1918.
  4. "Her Forty Frocks: Clara Williams Takes Them to the Paralta Company". Los Angeles Times. September 9, 1917.
  5. "Funeral of Mrs. Barker Not Decided". Los Angeles Times. May 9, 1928.
  6. "Married and Very Glad of It: Film Pair Happy After Five Years". Los Angeles Times. February 8, 1925.
  7. "Barker's Wife Has Operation". Los Angeles Times. February 23, 1928.
  8. "Clara Williams Former Star Dies". The Deseret News. May 8, 1928. p. 8. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  9. "Barker Funeral Hour Announced". Los Angeles Times. May 10, 1928.
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