Zeffie Tilbury

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

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

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

Early years

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 life

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


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
1917Blind Man's LuckyMrs. Guerton
1919The AvalancheMrs. RuylerLost film
A Society ExileMrs. Stanley Shelby
1920Mothers of MenMrs. De La Motte
ClothesMrs. CathcartLost film
1921The Marriage of William AsheLady Tranmore
Big Game
1924Another ScandalBrownieLost film
1927The Night of LoveLady in WaitingUncredited
1929The Single StandardMrs. Handley
1930The Ship from ShanghaiLady Daley
1931Charlie Chan Carries OnMrs. LuceLost film
1933Made on BroadwayAunt AdaUncredited
Blind AdventureUncredited
1934Two AloneRogers' NeighborUncredited
Mystery LinerGranny Plimpton
Bachelor BaitMiss TurnerUncredited
1935Women Must DressPeg Martin
The Mystery of Edwin DroodThe Opium Woman
Werewolf of LondonMrs. Moncaster
Public Hero No. 1Deaf Woman in Scottsdale BarUncredited
StrandedOld HagUncredited
The Farmer Takes a WifeOld TownswomanUncredited
Alice AdamsMrs. DresserUncredited
Navy WifeBridge PlayerUncredited
The Last Days of PompeiiThe Wise Woman
Bad BoyDeaf WomanUncredited
1936The Bohemian GirlGypsy Queen
DesireAunt Olga
Second ChildhoodGrandmaShort
Parole!Molly SmithUncredited
The White AngelWoman Donating SheetsUncredited
Anthony AdverseOld Woman at ChaletUncredited
The Gorgeous HussyMrs. Daniel Beall
Give Me Your HeartEsther Warren
Old HutchElderly Woman in BankUncredited
CamilleOld Duchess Bidding 3750 FrancsUncredited
After the Thin ManAunt LucyUncredited
1937Under Cover of NightMrs. Nash
Bulldog Drummond EscapesJail Cell DrunkUncredited
Maid of SalemGoody Rogers
Midnight TaxiMrs. LaneUncredited
ParnellOld LadyUncredited
Rhythm in the CloudsMaggie Conway - the Duchess de Lovely
HideawayMrs. BeamishUncredited
Fit for a KingDuchess Louise - Reception GuestUncredited
Bulldog Drummond Comes BackEffie
It Happened in HollywoodMiss Gordon
Federal BulletsMrs. Crippen
1938Bulldog Drummond's PerilMrs. Weevens
KidnappedOld WomanUncredited
Hunted MenFlower WomanUncredited
Woman Against WomanGrandma
Marie AntoinetteDowager at Birth of DauphinUncredited
Block-HeadsDowager Seated Near Stairs(scenes deleted)
Arrest Bulldog DrummondAunt Meg
1939Boy TroubleMrs. Jepson
The Story of Alexander Graham BellMrs. Sanders
Tell No TalesMiss Mary
Lady of the TropicsWoman Congratulating ManonUncredited
BalalaikaPrincess Natalya Petrovna
1940Emergency SquadMrs. CobbUncredited
The Earl of ChicagoMiss NanaUncredited
The Grapes of WrathGrandma Joad
Comin' Round the MountainGranny Stokes
She Couldn't Say NoMa Hawkins
1941Tobacco RoadGrandma Lester
Sheriff of TombstoneGranny Carson
1942Flying with MusicFortune TellerUncredited, (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. 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.

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