This Jewel Carmen article was originally published in the May 1999 issue of CLASSIC IMAGES.
Jewel Carmen Shaded in Scandal by Billy Doyle -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Her film career shaded in scandal and controversy, Jewel Carmen in the late teens was Douglas Fairbanks' leading lady and star for the old Fox Film Company. She was an actress whose film career was relatively short but whose private life kept her name in the news long after her film career ended, and yet she was long forgotten by the film world when death came. An actress who left Mack Sennett's Keystone Company under a cloud of rumors, she changed her name from Evelyn Quick to Jewel Carmen and became one of the Fox Film Company's popular stars. In the 1930s she was directly involved in one of the biggest scandals when her husband became one of the chief suspects in the suicide or murder of film star Thelma Todd. The events of Miss Carmen's life do not fall easily into place. Articles written on the actress at the peak of her popularity were full of contradictions with little ever stated about her early years. Early film magazine articles vary as to how she became a film actress-one stated she was sipping a soda in a Los Angeles restaurant when an old gentleman presented her with his card asking her if she would like to be in motion pictures. The old gentleman was none other than the renowned film pioneer Gaston Melies. Elizabeth Peltret in Motion Picture Magazine (November 1918) stated, "The Great D. W. Griffith was filming a scene for Intolerance, there was a pause in the action. Where, asked D.W., is that young lady who can act? Without a moment's hesitation George Seigmann called for Miss Carmen. So, Jewel Carmen's dream came true; she was discovered by D.W." Another source gives Douglas Fairbanks as her discoverer when she became his leading lady. With so many contradictions, it is hard to guess who actually discovered her. Perhaps each of these men had a role in discovering the actress. She was born Florence Lavina Quick, the daughter of Minerva Grey and William Quick in Danville, Kentucky (film directories) or Oregon (death certificate) on July 13, 1897. Motion picture studio directories give St. Mary's Academy, a Portland, Oregon convent as to where she received her early education, but another source stated she was brought to Los Angeles after she had completed grammar school, and while attending a convent in Los Angeles she sought to apply for a position with a film studio. The actress made her film debut as an extra in 1913 with the Keystone Company as Evelyn Quick. Her blonde beauty and vivacious personality soon brought her to the attention of Mack Sennett who promoted her from the extra rank to one of his stock company of players. Under Mr. Sennett's direction she appeared with Edgar Kennedy in A Life In Balance. Before abruptly leaving Keystone, due to unsavory gossip, she appeared in The Professor's Daughter with Eddie Lyons and Their Husbands under the direction of Henry Lehrman. Sources show that she also was associated with Pathe and the Nestor Film Companies appearing for the latter in the comedy Professional Jealousy. Between 1914 and 1915 the actress probably moved on to other studios appearing as an extra. It was at this time she appeared as an extra in D. W. Griffith's Intolerance and in Lillian Gish's Daphne and the Pirate (1916). Possibly her association with Mr. Griffith paved the way for her to join the Triangle-Fine Arts Studio. Now known as Jewel Carmen she began her rise as one of the company's leading starlets appearing in 1916 in support of Norma Talmadge in The Children in the House and De Wolf Hopper in Sunshine Dad. When Douglas Fairbanks picked her to be his leading lady in 1916 her career took a big step forward in his comedies Flirting with Fate, Manhattan Madness, American Aristocracy, and his drama The Half Breed. After only a year at Triangle-Fine Arts, Miss Carmen joined the Fox Company where between 1917-18 her career peaked as a leading lady to William Farnum in A Tale of Two Cities, American Methods, When a Man Sees Red, The Conqueror, and Les Miserables. Her popularity as Mr. Farnum's leading lady resulted in the Fox Company starring her for the first time in The Kingdom of Love. Miss Carmen proved that she could as star carry a film, so other starring roles followed in Confession, The Fallen Angel, and The Girl With The Champagne Eyes. In December 1918 upon her marriage to producer, director, and writer Roland West the actress terminated her Fox contract. As the wife of Mr. West she abandoned her film career for a long vacation and did not make another film until 1920 when she was starred by Mr. West in his production of the mystery melodrama Nobody with Kenneth Harlan and The Silver Lining with the long forgotten leading man Coit Albertson. In 1923 she returned to the Fox Company in You Can't Get Away With It. Three years elapsed before she returned to the screen in her husband's mystery melodrama The Bat. In 1926 with the silent era about to end, Miss Carmen retired from films. As the years went by, only occasionally did her name appear in print until on December 16, 1935, when the popular actress Thelma Todd was found dead in her automobile in the garage of her apartment. Was she a suicide or was she murdered or was it an accidental death? Whatever it was, Todd's death rocked Hollywood with Miss Carmen's husband one of the central players in the story. The press had a field day, linking Miss Carmen's name and her husband's to the tragedy. The death of Miss Todd ended Miss Carmen's marriage to Mr. West. After the divorce Miss Carmen sold her Hollywood real estate and left Hollywood where she was never heard of again. When Andy Edmonds wrote the Thelma Todd story in her book "Hot Toddy," Miss Carmen's marriage and relationship to Mr. West was thoroughly discussed, but Miss Edmonds apparently had not been able to find her and interview her for the book. After years of searching, film historian Richard Allynwood solved the mystery of what had become of the once popular actress. In her later years she made her home in La Jolla, California, until illness forced her into the Helix View Nursing Home in El Cajon, California. It was there she died of lymphoma on March 4, 1984. Her passing went unnoticed by the film world with no obituary for her in the trade papers. An actress whose life and career was laden perhaps with more non truths than truths, she has long been forgotten, but with silent films once more being enjoyed by the public, one can once again see the actress as "Lucy Manette" in her best known film, A Tale of Two Cities. It is a film worth seeing, and Miss Carmen truly makes her role as enjoyable today as it was in 1918, and it is the film that affords her a place in film history. My thanks to Richard Allynwood for his search in finding the details of Miss Carmen's death and to Dale Crawford who assisted Mr. Allynwood. Miss Carmen's story could not have been written without their help. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- . Copyright © 2010 Classic Images, Muscatine, IA. A Lee Enterprises subsidiary
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Comments by Margie:
Message #9936 in the Thelma Todd club on yahoo:
I checked census records and the only one I could find was 1910. Florence L. Quick, born around 1898 in Oregon. Parents William (born in Kentucky) and Minerva (born in Arkansas). At the time, they were living in Portland. Her oldest sister was born in Arkansas, but all the other siblings were born in Oregon. I'm guessing the family name was misspelled in 1900, as I've run into that a lot when whoever was transcribing couldn't read the handwriting of the census taker.
Message #9937 in the Thelma Todd Club on yahoo:
Found her in the 1900 census as Vina Quick, born in July 1897 in Oregon. Oldest sister still born in Arkansas, but now oldest brother is listed as born in Texas. Other siblings born in Oregon.
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