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Roland West
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    (February 20, 1885-March 31, 1952)
    Born in Cleveland, Ohio
    Birth name was Roland Van Zimmer
    Directed the films ‘The Monster’ (1925), ‘The Bat’ (1926), ‘Alibi’ (1929), ‘The Bat Whispers’ (1930) and ‘Corsair’ (1931)
    In addition to the standard 35-mm version, he shot a 65-mm version of ‘The Bat Whispers’ that theaters refused to show because of the extra expense for installing wide screens.
    He began an affair with actress Thelma Todd while still married to actress Jewel Carmen.
    He and Todd got into a loud argument on the night of her death.
    He admitted to locking Todd out of the house, which may have caused her to seek warmth in her car in the garage, leading to her death by carbon monoxide poisoning.
    Hollywood rumors hinted that he had actually murdered Todd, then placed her body in the garage and staged the scene to look like an accident.
    The bad publicity from his possible involvement in Todd’s death overshadowed his film work.
    On his deathbed, he allegedly confessed to actor Chester Morris that he had killed Todd.
    He wrote a play, ‘The Underworld’ (1906), in which he appeared in five different roles.
    The caped villain in his film ‘The Bat Whispers’ inspired Bob Kane in creating Batman.
    Although sensationalized descriptions of Todd’s death (such as Kenneth Anger’s ‘Hollywood Babylon’) describe her as having been beaten bloody, the autopsy reported that the only mark on her was ‘a superficial contusion of the lower lip.’
    Although there was no real evidence that Todd was murdered, the rumors about her death forced him into retirement and seclusion.

Credit: C. Fishel

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