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Theda Bara Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (26) | Personal Quotes (7) | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 29 July 1885Avondale, Ohio, USA
Date of Death 7 April 1955Los Angeles, California, USA  (abdominal cancer)
Birth NameTheodosia Burr Goodman
Nicknames Theo
The Vamp
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Theda Bara was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, as Theodosia Goodman, on July 29, 1885. She was the daughter of a local tailor and his wife. As a teenager Theda was interested in the theatrical arts and once she finished high school, she dyed her blond hair black and went in pursuit of her dream. By 1908 she was in New York in search of roles. That year she appeared in "The Devil", a stage play. In 1911 she joined a touring company. After returning to New York in 1914, she began making the rounds of various casting offices in search of work, and was eventually hired to appear in The Stain (1914) as an extra, but she was placed 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 the lead role as the "vampire" in A Fool There Was (1915) later that year, and "The Vamp" was born. It was a well-deserved break, because Theda was almost 30 years old, a time when younger women were always considered for lead roles. She became the screen's first fabricated star. Publicists sent out press releases that Theda was the daughter of an artist and an Arabian princess, and that "Theda Bara" was an anagram for "Arab Death"--a far cry from her humble Jewish upbringing in Cincinnati. The public became fascinated with her--how could one resist an actress who allowed herself to be photographed with snakes and skulls? Theda's second film, later that year for the newly formed Fox Studios, 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). The next year would prove to be another busy one, with theater patrons being treated to eight Theda Bara films, all of which would make a great deal of money for Fox Films, and in 1917 Fox headed west to Califoria and took Theda with them. That year she starred in a mega-hit, Cleopatra (1917). This was quickly followed by The Rose of Blood (1917). In 1918 Theda wrote the story and starred as the Priestess in The Soul of Buddha (1918). After seven films in 1919, ending with The Lure of Ambition (1919), her contract was terminated by Fox, 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 1930s but nothing really set the fires burning. A movie based on her life was planned 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

According to the studio biography Theda Bara (anagram of "Arab Death") was born in the Sahara to a French artiste and his Egyptian concubine and possessed supernatural powers. In fact, her father was a Cincinnati tailor. By 1908 she appeared in Broadway's "The Devil" named Theodosia de Coppett. In 1914 she met Frank Powell who cast her as The Vampire in A Fool There Was (1915), the role from which we have the word "vamp" -- a woman who saps the last sexual energies from middle-aged respectable men, no more than slaves crawling at her feet. In some of her publicity photos all that remains of her devoured victims are their skeletons before her on the floor. Most of these period parts (Salome (1918), Cleopatra (1917), Camille (1917)) were filmed from 1915 to 1919. After that the public began to laugh at such parts - her final return effort, in Madame Mystery (1926) was partly directed by Stan Laurel.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (1)

Charles Brabin (2 July 1921 - 7 April 1955) (her death)

Trade Mark (2)

She often played the role of a sexy, foul tempress whose beauty and dangerous allure led good-hearted men to their doom.
Panda-like eye make up

Trivia (26)

Screen and stage actress.
She was the first to utter the now famous but often misquoted line, "Kiss me, my fool."
Sister of actress/writer Lori Bara.
Pictured on one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Charles Chaplin, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.
For a time, she became a victim of her own screen image. Making movies at a time when audiences thought that the character that the actor played was the person that they were in real life she often found herself ostracized publicly. Late in her career she would tell stories of being refused service in restaurants and one nurse's refusal to admit her husband into the hospital after an accident because the woman thought that she had caused it. Many of these stories were greatly exaggerated (mostly by Bara herself) but she told them to establish the kind of perception that she had given the public.
Her screen persona was an exotic foreign beauty who was the ultimate "vamp" who would go through men like a shark. In reality, she was born in Ohio. Those who knew her claimed that she was a quiet, reserved woman that would be more likely found in a bookstore rather than a Hollywood nightclub. In the early 1920s, she married director Charles Brabin. This marriage lasted until her death despite allegations that Brabin had cheated on her (by Frederica Sagor Maas).
As a marketing ploy for Cleopatra (1917) Bara claimed to have the same astrological sign as the real Cleopatra. That is incorrect, as Cleopatra was a Capricorn and Bara was a Leo.
Most of her films were unfortunately lost to a fire at Fox Studios in 1937. Bara had her own personal archive but did not realize they had disintegrated until she took some films out to show a child friend who she hoped to play herself in a film in the 1940s.
In 1930, she lived at 632 N. Alpine Drive in Beverly Hills.
Almost all of her forty films have been lost (only three survive, as well as a handful of fragments as of 2009), giving her perhaps the highest percentage of lost work for somebody with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Is reported that Neil Gaiman took inspiration on her, for the character of 'Deatj' in the Sandman Comics.
She married British-born director Charles Brabin in 1921. After her retirement, Theda expressed interest in possibly returning to the stage or screen, but her husband did not consider it proper for his wife to have a career. Bara spent the remainder of her life as a hostess in Hollywood and New York, in comfort and quite wealthy.
Studios went wild promoting Bara with a massive campaign, billing her as the Egyptian-born daughter of a French actress and an Italian sculptor. They claimed she had spent her early years in the Sahara Desert under the shadow of the sphinx, then moved to France to become a stage actress. The truth is that she never visited Egypt or France. They called her the "Serpent of the Nile" and encouraged Bara to discuss mysticism and the occult in interviews.
Hoping to break out of her vamp typecast Bara made the film "Kathleen Mavourneen" in a Mary Pickford styled role. The film flopped and mutually tired of each other she and FOX both agreed not to renew her contract. After leaving Fox in 1919 she made only one feature The Unchastened Woman (1925). She retired in 1926 after making only one more film, the short comedy, Madame Mystery (1926).
Although she made more than 40 feature films between 1914 and 1926, complete prints of only six of these films are left in existence.
Her mother, Pauline DeCoppett (1861-1957), born in Switzerland and was also Jewish, outlived daughter Theda by two years.
Promotional claims fed off the fact that her stage name was chosen because it is an anagram for "Arab Death." In reality, "Theda" was a childhood nickname for Theodosia, and "Bara" was a shortened form of her maternal grandfather's last name, Baranger.
There is a street in Fort Lee, New Jersey named Theda Bara Way after her.
In the mid-to-late 1910s, she owned a large Tudor-style home at 649 West Adams Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. She sold the property to 'Roscoe Arbuckle' and Minta Durfee in 1918. It was eventually also the home of filmmaker couples Raoul Walsh and Miriam Cooper and Joseph M. Schenck and Norma Talmadge.
Later in life Bara hoped to make a film about her career with a neighborhood child she treated as her own. However the film never came to be as her health took a turn for the worst and she passed on soon after.
Only a few seconds of her most famous film, "Cleopatra" still survive. It was last seen in 1934 when Cecil B DeMille viewed it for his own remake.
Announced during a LUX Radio Theatre in 1936 that she was planning to return to films and was in the process of finding the right script.
Bara left the bulk of her estate to sister Lori. When she died, she left half of her $400,000 estate to the Motion Pictre Relief Fund in Theda's name with the other half going to children's hospitals.
After Bara's sensational early success at Fox, the entire Goodman Family took the name of Bara.
Not only were critics of the opinion that Bara was miscast in "Kathleen Mavourneen," but Irish Hibernian societies were enraged that an actress of Jewish extraction was playing an Irish heroine and sent members to stone the theaters exhibiting it and set off stink bombs.
Bara was very near-sighted and like other myopic actors had to memorize the position of furniture and props and rehearsed working them meticulously before the cameras rolled.

Personal Quotes (7)

I have the face of a vampire, but the heart of a feminist.
(in 1917) "During the rest of my screen career, I am going to continue doing vampires as long as people sin. For I believe that humanity needs the moral lesson and it needs it in repeatedly larger doses."
To understand those days, you must consider that people believed what they saw on the screen....Audiences thought the stars were the way they saw them. Why, women kicked my photographs as they went into the theaters where my pictures were playing, and once on the streets of New York a woman called the police because her child spoke to me.
[on director] J. Gordon Edwards was kind and considerate and the nicest director I ever had. Some directors are wonderful. They give you such funny advice on manners and deportment. 'Do I repulse the advances of the leading man or do I lead him on?' I asked. The director was stumped. He hadn't an idea of what to do. Finally he hit upon a lively answer. 'Oh, just keep the audience guessing,' he said.
[on husband Charles Brabin] His mental brilliance was not the first attractive quality I noticed about him. It was the way he walked. Like an Indian, Or, as if he wore seven-league boots. He stalked in and in two strides crossed the room. It still fascinates me to sit and watch him approach me.
[on her early career] To understand those days you must consider that people believed what they saw on the screen. Nobody had destroyed the grand illusion. Audiences thought the stars were just the way they saw them. Why, women kicked my photographs as they went into theaters where my pictures wee playing, and once on the streets of New York a woman called the police because her child spoke to me.
I started out as a star and remained a star.

Salary (3)

The Stain (1914) $150/week
A Fool There Was (1915) $150/week
Cleopatra (1917) $4,000/week

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