Roland West was the one who changed Thelma Todd's name to "Alison Loyd" for the movie CORSAIR. They later operated the Sidewalk Cafe together.
Death of Thelma Todd
- Fidler in Hollywood Nevada State Journal (June 25, 1946), p. 4
- "Roland West - The Great Experimenter". http://www.missinglinkclassichorror.co.uk/west.htm. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- John Wakeman, ed. (1987). World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company. pp. 1194–1197.
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"West has been variously described as 'very closed in', 'a very odd man,' and 'vacant'. The fact that he kept to himself as much as he did - even shutting himself off from those he worked with - has rendered him something of a mystery man." - John McCarty, THE FEARMAKERS, 1994.
Because West tended to be distant, sneaky, and even legally dubious, certain aspects of his life seem somewhat murky to this day. His relationship with Thelma Todd was controversial. As the term "mistress" is used to mean a kept woman, I would not use that term to describe Thelma Todd's relationship with West, who did not support her. West himself said," We were partners. If she wanted to buy lunch, she bought it. I bought mine. Would you believe it? I never bought Thelma Todd anything - no jewelry, no clothes, no presents. The only flowers I ever bought Thelma were the flowers I put on her casket." They were involved in business, but they were involved in private life as well.
According to Donati, West also was not legally married to Jewel Carman, although she is frequently referred to as his wife. It also seems that West didn't support Jewel Carmen, who was rich, and was said to have been the one who financed the Sidewalk Café.
Roland West did not work in the movies after making the movie CORSAIR with Thelma Todd. His career did not end because of the death of Thelma Todd, as has frequently been said. It had ended some time before that, by his own choice. West did not seem to like working in a studio. While still employed by the movie industry, West was known to work at night because he didn't like studio bosses around to tell him what to do.
West did regard producer Joseph Schenck as a friend, and was involved in an income tax evasion scheme with him which was also related gambling as it involved a casino that Schenck owned in Mexico. All of this came out when Schenck came to trial for income tax evasion in 1941.
As the Sidewalk Café is said to have operated at a loss, it is likely that it was, among other things, a tax shelter. Roland West continued to operate the Sidewalk Café for years and left it to Lola Lane when he died, after which she gave it to the Paulists, the present owners.
You occasionally come across references to Roland West having made a "deathbed confession" to having killed Thelma Todd. This is an "as told to story", supposedly having been handed down from Chester Morris, who was himself dead and unable to verify it when the story first saw print. There is no proof that Roland West every made such a confession.
There was a lot of suspicion of West, and there was reason to question his testimony:
"Could jealousy as a spurned/potential lover have been a motivational factor for West? Certainly, he contradicted himself in testimony. West insisted he heard running water in Todd's bathroom around 3:30 a.m. but did not find her in her room when he arose later in the morning. He then revised his statement and claimed Shafer told him the water noise "could have been the carbonator that pumps water to the fountain," downstairs in the cafe. Also unconvincing was West's initial assertion that his dog began whining just before the water sound and "never" whined normally. Some pages later, he changed his words, saying his dog whined every time its blanket came off."
But it's also been said that Roland West was blamed just because he was handy, and because he wasn't well liked. But then, he himself disliked some of the same people.
In 1934, Harrison Carroll reported that Thelma Todd's interest in the Sidewalk Café was listed under the name of "Alison Loyd", the name she had used for the movie CORSAIR in 1931. Usually this name was thought of as something of a joke, but West took it seriously and made a point of putting the name "Alison" on the flowers he sent to Thelma Todd's funeral. It was like he was sending a message out to the world that he thought he was right and everyone else was wrong.
Concerning the story that Thelma Todd died on the Joyita, I think it was connected with that vessel's later notoriety, when Thelma Todd was lumped in with the misfortunes of other people who were associated with the vessel.
Roland West and Jewel Carmen
Lola Lane was in the movies in the thirties,
Batman And Me ( And Roland West ):
Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Café: