Roland West (Roland Van Ziemer)
BiographyCleveland, Ohio, USA
Roland West was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and became an actor in the theater and on the vaudeville stage. He got his start in the film industry in New York City around 1915, forming several production companies to shoot films there. He later worked as general manager of production for producer Joseph M. Schenck, and directed several comedies and dramas. He gained a reputation for moody, atmospheric horror films in The Monster (1925), The Bat (1926) and The Bat Whispers (1930). Read more... and Thelma Todd (his current girlfriend) in a restaurant and bar on the Santa Monica beach called Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe. The popular establishment also gained a reputation as a hangout for a variety of shady underworld characters, and there were rumors of Todd and West being pressured by mob figures to use the place as a front to enable them to get the couple's wealthy Hollywood friends drunk and in compromising positions so they could be blackmailed. In 1935 Todd was found slumped over the steering wheel of her car, with the engine still running, in the adjacent apartment building's garage, the victim of "accidental carbon monoxide poisoning", although many in her circle believed she was murdered by gangsters because she wouldn't let them use her restaurant for their activities. Others believed she was killed by West himself, who was known to have a violent temper and to have fought with Todd on numerous occasions. Her murder is still listed as unsolved.