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West, Roland

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Author.

Pseudonym of US film director and playwright Roland Van Zimmer (1885-1952), who is best remembered for the unsubstantiated allegation that he murdered his business partner and lover Thelma Todd (1906-1935). He is of some sf interest for a play, The Unknown Purple (performed 1918; 1919), which is also credited to Carlyle Moore (1875-1924), who was not involved in the film version, The Unknown Purple (1923) directed by West. The play involves the use of the power of Invisibility for purposes of revenge by the ex-convict whose Invention it was, and who had been betrayed by his partner. He is unable to make himself completely invisible, however, as when "invisible" he emits a purple glow. He begins to commit burglaries and to catch genuine criminals, becoming known as The Unknown Purple, a Superpowered Antihero whose "costume" consists of a glow.

Further films directed by West include The Monster (1925), involving a nonfantastic Monster and experimental attempts (by a Mad Scientist played by Lon Chaney) to transfer a female mind into a male body. [JC]

Roland Van Zimmer

born Cleveland, Ohio: 20 February 1885

died Santa Monica, California: 31 March 1952

works (highly selected)

  • The Unknown Purple (Toronto, Ontario: W S Johnston and Company, 1919) [play: first performed 14 November 1918 Lyric Theatre, New York: Carlyle Moore credited as co-author in some lists: hb/]

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