Ethel Clayton was an American actress of the silent film era.
Clayton’s screen debut came in 1909, in a short called Justified. She jockeyed her early film appearances with a burgeoning stage career. Her pretty blond looks were reminiscient of the famous Gibson Girl drawings by Charles Dana Gibson. On the stage she appeared mainly in musicals or musical reviews such as The Ziegfeld Follies of 1911. These musical appearances indicate a singing talent Clayton may have possessed but went unused in her many silent screen performances. In 1912 she appeared in “The Country Boy” on stage at the Lyceum Theatre in Rochester New York and made her feature length film debut in For the Love of a Girl. The film was directed by Barry O’Neil. Ethel was cast with Harry Myers, Charles Arthur, and Peter Lang. She was also directed by William Demille, Robert G. Vignola, George Melford, Donald Crisp, Dallas M. Fitzgerald, and Clifford Sanforth.
Like many silent film actors Clayton’s career was hurt by the coming of sound to motion pictures. She continued her career in small parts in movies until she retired in 1948. Her screen credits number more than 180.
In 1931, Clayton obtained a California Superior Court order enjoining her former business partner, W.L. Rucker, from disposing of 316 pearls. Clayton and Rucker agreed to purchase a cosmetics business and the pearls had been entrusted to Rucker to raise money. The deal fell through and he refused to return the jewels. Rucker admitted to possessing the pearls but claimed they had been pledged as security for a $125 loan. The pearls were valued at $20,000.