Today is the birthday of Carmel Myers (1899-1980). The beautiful Myers was the daughter of a San Francisco rabbi. The family moved to Los Angeles when she was in her teens. The lore is that her father was one of the advisors on the Biblical scenes in Intolerance (1916) and that was how she broke into pictures, as she is a harem dancer in the film. But she has several film credits preceding Intolerance, though it is still possible that her well-connect father helped provide the entree (although her good looks didn’t hurt any).
For all her religious beginnings, she became one of Hollywood’s most famous vamps in the teens and twenties. The titles of many of her films tell the story: The Love Gambler, Slave of Desire, The Dancer of the Nile, The Love Pirate, Poisoned Paradise: The Forbidden Story of Monte Carlo, The Devil’s Circus, The Gay Deceiver. Her stock went even higher when she played the vamp in Ben Hur (1925), attempting to seduce both Jesus and Ben Hur — and let me tell you, those gentlemen must have had ice water in their veins. Her transition to sound was initially successful; she had good parts in Svengali (1931) and The Mad Genius (1931), both with John Barrymore. among many others. After the mid-30s work was more sporadic, but she did act now and again in such things as the Leon Errol short Pretty Dolly (1942), playing Mrs. Errol, and George White’s Scandals (1945). For a while (1951-52) she even had her own TV variety/talk show on the Mutual Network. One of her last credits was a 1975 episode of Chico and the Man.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.