12 June 2024

Jewel Carmen

American actress Jewel Carmen (1897-1984) appeared in more than 40 silent films. She peaked in the later 1910s at Triangle and Fox opposite the actors Douglas Fairbanks and William Farnum. Her film The Bat (1926) was one of the inspirations for 'Batman'.

Jewel Carmen
British postcard in the Famous Cinema Star series by Beagles' Postcards, no. 192 B. Photo: Fox Film.

Jewel Carmen
British postcard by Cinema Chat. Photo: Fox.

Méliès, Keystone, Fine Arts and Fox

Jewel Carmen was born Florence Lavina Quick in Portland, Oregon, in 1897. She was the daughter of farmer and carpenter Amos William Quick and Minerva Quick. In 1911, Amos left his wife and children to seek work in Los Angeles. Quick moved with her mother to Los Angeles a year later, following her father. She aspired to be an actress and within two weeks, she found work as a film extra for the DeMille Company.

When she was only 15, she made her film debut credited as Florence La Vinci in The Will of Destiny (1912) for the American production company of French pioneer Georges Méliès. According to The Moving Picture World on 17 August 1912, "The acting is good and the photography is commendable." For Méliès, she also appeared in another short, A Son's Example (1912) with Ray Gallagher and Richard Stanton.

Then she moved to Keystone and played in the short comedy The Professor's Daughter (Mack Sennett, 1913) opposite Fred Mace and Ford Sterling. For Keystone, she acted in 13 films and was renamed Evelyn Quick. To Mack Sennett, she claimed she was 17, as 16 was the minimal age at Keystone. She hit the newspapers in 1913 when the 15-year-old Carmen was involved in a case of statutory rape against the wealthy 35-year-old automobile dealer William La Casse, but as she couldn't prove her age, the case was dropped. Among her other Keystone comedies are The Gangsters (Henry Lehrmann, 1913) starring Fatty Arbuckle and Cupid in a Dental Parlor (Henry Lehrmann, 1913) as the love of Fred Mace.

After the scandal, Quick took three years off. At 19, she resumed her film career under the name Jewel Carmen in her first feature-length production, the adventure film Daphne and the Pirate (Christy Cabanne, 1916). D.W. Griffith was the screenwriter for this Fine Arts production which starred Lilian Gish as Daphne. Nine more films followed that year, including Sunshine Dad (Edward Dillon, 1916) and The Children in the House (Sidney Franklin, Chester M. Franklin, 1916) with Norma Talmadge. In the adventure films Manhattan Madness (Allan Dwan, 1916) and Flirting with Fate (Christy Cabanne, 19160, she co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks. On the side that year, she was in short comedies at L-Ko, still under the name of Evelyn Quick. She had a bit role as a harem favourite in the classic Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (D.W. Griffith, 1916).

Jewel Carmen went on to six films in 1917 for the Fox Film Corporation. These included the Charles Dickens adaptation A Tale of Two Cities (Frank Lloyd, 1917) opposite William Farnum. She also played Cosette in Lloyd's Victor Hugo adaptation Les Miserables (Frank Lloyd, 1917) starring William Farnum as Jean Valjean. Carmen was the star of Lloyd's The Kingdom of Love (Frank Lloyd, 1917). In 1918, she starred for Fox in five films including the Western Lawless Love (1918). Then her career halted.

Jewel Carmen
British postcard in the "Pictures" Portrait Gallery by Ed. Pictures Ltd., London, no. 10. Photo: Fox.

Ongoing lawsuits

After Confession (Sidney Franklin, 1918), Jewel Carmen went to court to free herself from her contract with Fox. Amidst the ongoing lawsuits, which she partly won, she married director Roland West. When her contract with Fox stopped, she left the film industry for three years.

Carmen returned to the screen at Metro in the mystery Nobody (Roland West, 1921). That year, she also starred in West's The Silver Lining (Roland West, 1921) with Virginia Valli.

Three years later, she played a small part at Fox in You Can't Get Away with It (Rowland V. Lee, 1924) starring Percy Marmont and Malcolm McGregor. The film was a remake of her film Fallen Angel (Robert Thornby, 1918).

Her final fling with the cinema was The Bat (Roland West, 1926), with Jack Pickford, Louise Fazenda and Tullio Carminati. A master crook known as 'The Bat' because of his disguise announces a jewel theft in advance but is foiled by a rival crook at the scene of the crime. Bob Kane stated in the documentary 'The Comic Book Greats' that this thriller was one of the inspirations for 'Batman'. Wes Connors at IMDb: 'Jack Pickford (as Brooks Bailey) and West's wife, Jewel Carmen (as Dale Ogden), lead the ensemble cast. This was Ms. Carmen's last feature film; she was a fairly big star, but worked less as her popularity grew."

Carmen later became known for her connection to the scandal surrounding the death of actress Thelma Todd in 1935. Todd was found with carbon monoxide poisoning in her car, which was parked and running in the garage of the Castillo del Mar. This was a residence of Carmen and West in Pacific Palisades, where Carmen's parents were living. Various scenarios about who the culprit was passed, including West who had an affair with Todd and gangster Lucky Luciano. In the end, Todd's death was ruled accidental. Carmen separated from Roland West and withdrew from public life. Jewel Carmen died of lymphoma at Helix View Nursing Home in El Cajon, California, in 1984 at the age of 86.

Douglas Fairbanks and Jewel Carmen
Swedish postcard by Förlag Nordisk Konst, Stockholm, no. 902. With Douglas Fairbanks.

Jewel Carmen
British postcard by Lilywhite Ltd. in the Cinema Stars series, no. C M-32. Photo: Fox.

Sources: Wes Connors (IMDb), Denny Jackson (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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