Sybil Tinkle Found!

Excerpt from my previous post: Olive Borden: The Sybil Tinkle Connection

“In an interview from his home in Texas, a nephew of Sybil Tinkle said his aunt ran away from home in the early 1920s following a disastrous marriage and found her way to California, where she attempted to break into the movies. Once in Hollywood, she wrote notes and sent portraits but, after a while, the family lost touch with her–forever!  For some reason, unexplained by the nephew, the family believed Sybil Tinkle became Olive Borden.

In 1928, when Sybil’s brother, Joe Alton Tinkle, was killed in an accident, it was reported to the Texas press that the death revealed screen star Olive Borden’s true identity as that of a local girl, Sybil Tinkle. The family told reporters that “Miss Borden was notified of her brother’s death, but will not return to Texas for the funeral.”

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“So, Olive Borden and Sybil Tinkle were two different people from two totally different walks of life–will writers ever correct their errors? The resolution of one misunderstanding, however, leads to other questions.

How did the Tinkle family link their loved one to Olive Borden? Why was the mix-up reported in the press so widely in 1928 after the death of a Tinkle? Did Sybil write to the family that she was Olive Borden? Or, could she have been Olive’s stand-in or double for a time? Did Sybil, as the Tinkle family has suggested, take over and carry on Olive’s name in the 1930s, after Olive Borden, because of excessive drinking, could no longer function on the screen–how preposterous!

We know what happened to Olive Borden–she rests beside her mother at Forest Lawn in Glendale. But, whatever became of Sybil Tinkle? Hollywood can concoct some bizarre tales, but this mystery only proves one thing: truth IS stranger than fiction.”

To refresh your memory, reread that post!


Whatever did become of Sybil Tinkle? The story can now be told.

A teenage Sybil Tinkle while still in Texas

On July 16, 1920, Sybil Tinkle, just 18 years old, married Herman Downs Clark, the brother of  Edward A. Clark, the famed Texas lawyer, banker, and diplomat.  The marriage fell apart, and as soon as she could, Sybil made her way to Hollywood, where she tried to break into the movies.

In June and July of 1926, it looked as though Sybil had potential. She had portraits made by Witzel and caught the attention of casting agents.

Sybil Tinkle in Hollywood

Variety reported in June 1926 that Sybil and Della Sawyer were appearing in A Good Citizen, to be directed by Robert Dunlap. The next month, Variety reported that Sybil had been selected as the feminine lead in Old Dad. Robert Dunlap was directing for Benhall Productions.  I could find no reference to these films ever being made in this period.

Several months later, Olive Borden hit the big time in John Ford’s 3 Bad Men. Sybil, unable to find work in films, got in on the action. In the San Augustine Tribune, an advertisement boasted that Sybil Tinkle had become a big star . . .  by becoming Olive Borden!

Olive Borden’s star continued to rise into the late 1920s. Nothing was heard of Sybil Tinkle until 1928, when her brother, Joe Alton, died in a car accident in Texas. Newspapers widely reported that the dead man was the brother of Olive Borden.  If she knew the story, this must have been very baffling to Olive and her mother, Sibbie.

The mention of Sybil Tinkle ended here, with the news of her brother’s death. Her trail disappeared into the pages of Hollywood history, only to reemerge when her name started showing up in film reference books as the real name of Olive Borden.

Her family had no clue what became of their loved one who had gone to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune. When the Tinkle family heard rumors that Sybil had died, one of her brothers came West to track down whatever clues he could find. Sybil’s nephew, who made the trip with his father, said they came home empty handed. They never found Sybil or learned what happened to her.

After I finished my Mae Murray biography and before I started researching the sequel to Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels, I gave Sybil Tinkle another glance.  Seeing her name as Olive’s birth name in film references, particularly Katz (The Film Encyclopedia), continued to nag me.  Plus, I love a good mystery!

The mystery is solved!

I located Sybil Tinkle in the 1928 Los Angeles Marriage Index.  She married screenwriter Clarence J. Marks the day after Christmas in 1928.

Sybil Tinkle in the Los Angeles Marriage Index for 1928.

Assuming she dropped her hopes for fame and settled into married life, I looked for the Marks family in the 1930 Census.  Clarence Marks was listed as a widower.

Not long after their marriage, Sybil Tinkle became ill with tuberculosis. The couple moved to Monrovia, outside Los Angeles, so that Sybil could be near the Pottenger Sanatorium, an institution devoted to the treatment of diseases of the lungs. She was there with an actress who had made good in Hollywood, but who was also dying from her disease: Mabel Normand.

Mabel died February 23, 1930. Sybil Tinkle followed her five days later, on February 28.

Sybil Tinkle's death certificate

Her death certificate gives clues as to why the Tinkle family never found out what became of Sybil.  Her informant, Clarence Marks, apparently didn’t know much himself about her family. Perhaps Sybil kept the details of her early life from him.

Poor Sybil! With all her hopes and dreams of becoming somebody in films, she died just plain Sybil Tinkle from Texas.






4 thoughts on “Sybil Tinkle Found!

  1. I’m so glad the truth is now in he open thanks to you Michael. I hope she and Mabel got to know each are a great detective.

  2. Very interesting article, Michael! I really enjoy a good Hollywood mystery myself. My biggest endeavor, that I spent literally 100s of hours searching, was trying to find out what happened to Joan Barry, the aspiring starlet who brought suit against Chaplin in the early 1940s. I completed a 5,500 word article that is posted on my blog. It did include some never before released information at the time, but still the definitive answer as to what happened to her remains elusive. I check and some other sites here and there, but it always leads me to a dead end.

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