Theda Bara was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, as Theodosia Goodman, on July29, 1885. She was the daughter of a local tailor and his wife. As ateenager Theda was interested in the theatrical arts and once shefinished high school, she dyed her blond hair black and went in pursuitof her dream. By 1908 she was in New York in search of roles.
That yearshe appeared in "The Devil", a stage play. In 1911 she joined a touringcompany. After returning to New York in 1914, she began making therounds of various casting offices in search of work, and was eventuallyhired to appear in The Stain (1914) as an extra, but she wasplaced so far in the background that she was not noticed on the screen. However, it was her ability to take direction which helped her gain thelead role as the "vampire" in A Fool There Was (1915) later thatyear, and "The Vamp" was born. It was a well-deserved break, becauseTheda was almost 30 years old, a time when younger women were alwaysconsidered for lead roles.
She became the screen's first fabricatedstar. Publicists sent out press releases that Theda was the daughter ofan artist and an Arabian princess, and that "Theda Bara" was an anagramfor "Arab Death"--a far cry from her humble Jewish upbringing inCincinnati. The public became fascinated with her--how could one resistan actress who allowed herself to be photographed with snakes andskulls? Theda's second film, later that year for the newly formed FoxStudios, was as Celia Friedlander in Kreutzer Sonata (1915) . Theda was hot property now and was to make six more films in 1915,finishing up with Carmen (1915/I) . The next year would prove tobe another busy one, with theater patrons being treated to eight ThedaBara films, all of which would make a great deal of money for FoxFilms, and in 1917 Fox headed west to Califoria and took Theda withthem.
That year she starred in a mega-hit, Cleopatra (1917) . This was quickly followed by The Rose of Blood (1917) . In 1918Theda wrote the story and starred as the Priestess in The Soul of Buddha (1918) . After seven films in 1919, endingwith The Lure of Ambition (1919) , her contract was terminated byFox, and her career never recovered. In 1921 she married director'Charles Brabin' and retired.
In 1926 she made her last film, Madame Mystery (1926) , and promptly went back into retirement,permanently, at the age of 41. She tried the stage briefly in the 1930sbut nothing really set the fires burning. A movie based on her life wasplanned in the 1950s, but nothing ever came of it. On April 7, 1955,Theda Bara died of abdominal cancer at the age of 69 in Los Angeles,California. There has been no one like her since.
According to the studio biography 'Theda Bara' (anagram of "ArabDeath") was born in the Sahara to a French artiste and his Egyptianconcubine and possessed supernatural powers. In fact, her father was aCincinnati tailor. By 1908 she appeared in Broadway's "The Devil" namedTheodosia de Coppett. In 1914 she met 'Frank Powell (I)' who casther as The Vampire in A Fool There Was (1915) , the role fromwhich we have the word "vamp" -- a woman who saps the last sexualenergies from middle-aged respectable men, no more than slaves crawlingat her feet. In some of her publicity photos all that remains of herdevoured victims are their skeletons before her on the floor.
Most ofthese period parts ( Salome (1918) , Cleopatra (1917) ,Camille (1917)) were filmed from 1915 to 1919. After that the publicbegan to laugh at such parts - her final return effort, in Madame Mystery (1926) was partly directed by 'Stan Laurel' . .
|1||Flicker Flashbacks No. 2, Series 5||1947||as Herself|
|2||Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 11||1937||as Herself|
|3||Screen Snapshots Series 17, No. 1||1937||as Herself|
|4||Screen Snapshots, Series 3, No. 19||1923||as Herself|
|5||When a Woman Sins||1918||as Lilian Marchard/Poppea|
|6||Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema||2007||as Herself|
|7||45 Minutes from Hollywood||1926||as Herself|
|8||A Fool There Was||1915||as The Vampire|
|9||A Woman There Was||1919||as Princess Zara|
|10||Camille||1917||as Marguerite Gautier|
|12||Destruction||1915||as Ferdinande Martin|
|13||East Lynne||1916||as Lady Isabel Carlisle|
|14||Empire of the Censors||1995||as Herself|
|15||Fragments: Surviving Pieces of Lost Films||2011||as Herself|
|16||Gold and the Woman||1916||as Juliet DeCordova|
|17||Heart and Soul||1917||as Jess|
|18||Her Double Life||1916||as Mary Doone|
|19||Her Greatest Love||1917||as Vera Herbert|
|20||Hollywood: The Golden Years||1961||as Herself|
|21||Kathleen Mavourneen||1919||as Kathleen Mavourneen|
|22||Kreutzer Sonata||1915||as Celia Friedlander|
|23||La belle Russe||1919||as Fleurette Sackton/La Belle Russe|
|24||Madame Du Barry||1917||as Madame Du Barry|
|25||Madame Mystery||1926||as Madame Mysterieux|
|28||Stars of Yesterday||1931||as Herself|
|29||The Clemenceau Case||1915||as Iza|
|30||The Darling of Paris||1917||as Esmeralda|
|31||The Devils Daughter||1915||as La Gioconda|
|32||The Eternal Sappho||1916||as Laura Bruffins|
|33||The Film Parade||1933||as Herself, film clip|
|34||The Forbidden Path||1918||as Mary Lynde|
|35||The Galley Slave||1915||as Francesca Brabaut|
|36||The Light||1919||as Blanchette Dumond, aka Madame Lefresne|
|37||The Love Goddesses||1965||as Herself|
|38||The Lure of Ambition||1919||as Olga Dolan|
|39||The Many Faces of Cleopatra||2009||as Cleopatra|
|40||The Movies March On||1939||as Herself - From 'A Fool There Was'|