Claire Anderson: Comedienne of Convenience

Claire Anderson (Claire Mathes, 1895-1964) came from Detroit to Hollywood in 1914, where she began appearing in melodramas for D.W. Griffith’s Reliance-Majestic studio opposite stars like Wallace Reid. One of her early pictures was Tod Browning’s The Story of a Story (1915) with Eugene Pallette.

In 1915 Reliance-Majestic was joined with Thomas Ince’s studio (Kay-Bee) and Mack Sennett’s Keystone to form Triangle, and increasingly she found herself cast in the Keystone division, sometimes with the billing Cora Anderson. Her comedies for Keystone included Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts (1915) with Chester Conklin; His Bread and Butter (1916) with Hank Mann, Slim Summerville and Bobby Dunn; The Girl and the Lion (1916) with vaudeville bicycle clown Joe Jackson (in which she had a scene with a real lion); and A Clever Dummy (1917) with Conklin, Ben Turpin and Wallace Beery. Other top comics she starred with included Fred Mace, George Ovey, and Harry Gribbon. Anderson is often referred to as a “Bathing Beauty” and she appeared in some early promotional photo sessions as one, but to all evidence,at least most of her appearances with the Keystone division were in bona fide acting roles.

By 1918 Anderson was starring features for Triangle (both comedies and dramas) and this led to work for a wide variety of studios, mostly in now forgotten melodramas, through 1925. A couple of notable ones: the auto racing thriller The Road Demon (1921) with Tom Mix, and the unfortunately titled The Yellow Stain (1922) with John Gilbert. Her last film was the western Unseen Enemies (1925) with Al Hoxie. 

For more on silent film comedy, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube