Born in San Francisco, silent screen star Carmel Myers was brought to Los Angeles as a child when her father, Rabbi Isadore Myers, went there to help found Sinai Temple.
By 1909, largely through the thrust provided by her ambitious Viennese-born mother, Myers was making short silent films at the old Selig Zoo in East Los Angeles.
Her big break came a few years later after her scholarly father had worked as an unpaid consultant to director D. W. Griffith on his monumental film "Intolerance." At the urging of his wife, the rabbi asked the movie pioneer a favor: a screen test for Carmel.
She took the test and got a $12-a-week spot in the great director's movie stock company, training ground for many of Hollywood's greatest stars.
Although Myers led a rather protected life as a young woman, her dark, sultry beauty made her a natural for the sexy, exotic "vamp" roles that were a feature of romantic films of the 1920s.
Her best-known role was as the wicked Egyptian seductress in the 1926 version of "Ben Hur." Some of her other films of the period included "The Haunted Pajamas," "Sirens of the Sea," "The Slave of Desire" and "Beau Brummel" with John Barrymore.
One of her favorite anecdotes of her early career involved movie magnate Samuel Goldwyn, whose true name was Goldfish. She recalled that he once offered her work — provided she change her name because it sounded "too Jewish."
"Oh, Mr. Goldfish," she remembered telling him, "if my career depends upon hiding the fact that I was born a Jew, I'd rather not have one."