Jeanne Laverne Carmen (1930–2007)
During the 1950s and 1960s, Jeanne Carmen was a pin-up model, a trick shot golfer, and a B-movie actress.
Jeanne Carmen was born Agnes Lavern Carmon in the Lafe community in Greene County near Paragould (Greene County) on August 4, 1930. Her mother was Georgia Ellen Wright, who was twenty years old and was not married to her daughter’s father. On March 20, 1930, Georgia Wright had appeared before the Greene County Court, explaining that she was pregnant and was due in August. She testified that Dennis “D. B.” Carmon was the father of her unborn child. She asked for an arrest warrant to hold him to answer to the charge. On August 4, she gave birth to Agnes and a twin brother Donald. In the January 26, 1931, trial, styled State of Arkansas for the Use and Benefit of Georgia Wright vs. D. B. Carmon, twelve male jurors found Dennis Carmon guilty. Georgia Wright was to receive $25 for “lying in” expenses and $10 a month in child support until the children reached the age of fourteen. Appeals followed, but they were unsuccessful.
Agnes Carmon grew up near Lafe, chopping and picking cotton. At age sixteen, she and friend Mary Lou Ledbetter went to St. Louis, Missouri, where Carmon had family. Reportedly, she found a job in a potato chip factory and may have worked as a waitress at the Big Chief Roadhouse restaurant on Highway 66.
She met Sandy Scott, an aspiring operatic singer, and followed him to New York, where she auditioned for Bert Lahr’s revival of the 1927 Broadway show Burlesque. She married Scott in 1949 and became a leading pin-up model, her picture appearing in Esquire, He, Girl Watcher Magazine Pictorial, Sensation, and Carnival. For her professional name, she chose Jeanne and changed Carmon to Carmen.
Professional golfer Jack Redmond hired her to model women’s golf wear and took her on tour. After an argument with her husband, she decided to hitchhike. (They later divorced.) She was picked up by mobster Johnny Roselli, and they stopped in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she hustled men on golf courses, winning sizable sums.
By the early 1950s, she was in Hollywood, where she appeared in thirteen motion pictures, including The Three Outlaws, War Drums, Untamed Youth, Portland Exposé, and The Monster of Piedras Blancas. Although she had small parts in the films, her attractive image was invariably featured on the lobby cards (movie posters). Dressed as an Apache princess, she was sent out promoting War Drums despite having no known Native American ancestry. Her younger brother Bobby stayed with her for a time, but their mother said, “One of you in the movies is enough.”
Jeanne Carmen also guest-starred in television shows, including Riverboat and Have Gun—Will Travel. Although she played a dark-haired Apache princess in War Drums, she appeared in Riverboat as the “Blond Girl in the Coach.”
She also appeared in nationally syndicated newspaper columns. In February 1958, Earl Wilson described her as an old friend. In December 1958, Harrison Carroll reported that Frank Sinatra visited her in Palm Springs. Walter Winchell and Dorothy Kilgallen also wrote about her. She often returned to Arkansas, visiting Paragould.
In 1962, Carmen moved to Scottdale, Arizona, where she married stockbroker Ben Campo and had three children. In 1978, she relocated to Orange County, California, where she died on December 20, 2007.
For additional information:
Brandon, James. Jeanne Carmen: My Wild, Wild Life as a New York Pin Up Queen, Trick Shot Golfer, & Hollywood Actress. Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2006.
Holmes, Kay. “Jeanne Carmen.” Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society (Fall 2020): 105–106.
Morris, Nancy. “Jeanne Carmen.” Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society. (Fall 2020): 107–111.
Nancy Darlene Cook
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