Carmel Myers: The Rabbi’s Beautiful Daughter

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Carmel Myers (1899-1980).

Pearl has identified the Jewish movie star correctly as Carmel Myers.

D.W. Griffith hired Rabbi Isadore Myers as the Jewish technical consultant on his great epic, Intolerance, 1916. Griffith was so happy with Rabbi Myer’s expert advice and attention to detail that he said to the good Rabbi:

“How can I ever repay you?”

Rabbi Myers replied: “I have a daughter who would like to get into pictures.”

Carmel appears fleetingly as a dancing girl in Intolerance, and afterwards was signed as a contract Griffith player a few months prior to Colleen Moore’s arrival. They became close friends.

In her book Silent Star, Colleen Moore remembers that a a club for young actresses—Our Club—was organized as a means of mutual support. The young actresses would lunch on Sunday, discuss movies, books, “boys” and generously feed one another tips on what roles were available at which studios. Myers was an active member. A typical meeting included: Anita Stewart, Patsy Ruth Miller, Helen Ferguson, Billie Dove, Virginia Zanuck, Gertrud Olmsted, Julanne Johnston, Clara Horton, Ruby Keeler, Loretta Young, Aline MacMahon, Ruth Roland, Carmelita Geraghty, Pauline Garan and Ann Harding. Mary Pickford was Godmother to this extraordinary gathering of up and coming stars.

Carmel’s biggest break came when she was chosen to play Iras in the huge MGM production of Ben Hur, 1925.

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Carmel Myers and Ramon Novarro, Ben Hur, 1925

The Rabbi’s beautiful daughter was frequently cast as the sexy vamp in silent films. She starred and worked with some of the best known stars of the time: John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Rudolph Valentino, Norma Shearer, Adolph Menjou, Eleanor Boardman, Lon Chaney, and Joan Crawford. Carmel made the transition to sound quite nicely, and as she grew older eased gracefully into character parts. But when the roles got too small she shifted into real estate—always a smart bet in Los Angeles—and launched her own perfume company. In 1951 Carmel had her own TV show for one season. She was married three times, each man was Jewish. This reveals Carmel’s deep sense of commitment to Judaism, at a time when intermarriage was almost expected among the Hollywood Jewish elite.

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Carmel Myers enjoys humiliating H.B. Warner,
Sorrel and Son, 1927.

A lost Carmel Myers film was recently rediscovered and restored. From Senses of Cinema.

Among the recent discoveries and restorations this year, Herbert Brenon’s Sorrel and Son (1927), previously thought lost, proved strong enough to transcend the poor print material. James Wong Howe’s camerawork unfortunately could not be properly appreciated, but this is an excellent example of the kind of quality production Hollywood made at the time, and Brenon was nominated for an Academy Award. H.B. Warner gives a moving performance as a gentleman soldier trying to raise his son through hard times, and Carmel Myers especially stands out as a sluttish tavern owner, leading Variety to single out a scene in which she sadistically makes Warner wash the floors: “The manner in which Miss Myers handles this scene is great, and for that reason it is doubtful if it will pass uncensored.”

Almost entirely forgotten now, Carmel Myers was a fine actress and a great star of the silent screen.

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Carmel Myers, The Rabbi’s Beautiful Daughter

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Carmel Myers, MGM Photo, The Ship From Shanghai, 1930.

Carmel Myers IMDb

Carmel Myers Photo Gallery

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8 Comments

  1. Katherine
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I have a beautiful photo of her from my great grandmother and just framing it. Glad to find out more information. My family is from San Francisco.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Gaylyn Studlar
    Posted March 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I met Carmel Myers in the 1970s when I was a student at USC and working in the film library there. She was still quite beautiful and very kind. There was nothing of the “star” about her. She was just a sincere, gracious lady, so much so, that I was shocked when I first saw her so effectively essay the “bad girl” in BEN-HUR! Interesting that BEN-HUR’s original director was Charles Brabin, the husband of another “bad girl” of the screen, Theda Bara.

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  3. Posted December 11, 2008 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Larry:
    Thanks so much for commenting. Best of luck with your project. Keep us posted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Larry Myers
    Posted December 11, 2008 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I am related to Carmel Myers through the Mayer Myers Sherman Selznick family. I am doing research on the family and their connection to Margart Mitchell who wrote Gone With the Wind. Thank you for posting this. Larry Myers

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  5. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Sally:
    Thanks so much for the kind comment. Enjoy Ben Hur. It was a troubled production. The original director was fired as was most of the cast. Carmel was one of the few from the original cast who was not replaced.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Sally Box
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    She is stunning. I’m going to get ‘Ben-Hur’ out of the library next week and watch her performance. Just finished ‘Intolerance’ for the nth time, but I’ll have to see if I can spot her among the dancers.
    These Hollywood vignettes are great! Thanks for writing them- I look forward to each one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Pearl:
    Carmel Myers was, by all accounts, an incredibly talented actress. I’ve seen only a small sample of her work and she is magnetic. It’s tragic that so much silent film has been lost or destroyed.
    I’d love to know more about her life and work.

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  8. Posted March 17, 2008 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Robert, Carmel is truly a beautiful woman in that top pic.
    You mentioned that she’d been married 3 times — each time to a fellow Jew. That was something I’d also noted when I’d read up on her while trying to distinguish who was in the photo. I’d thought, “Mazel tov. Finally a Jew who marries another Jew in Hollywood!”

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