Theda Bara Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (2)  | Spouse (1)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (27)  | Personal Quotes (10)  | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Born in Avondale, Ohio, USA
Died in Los 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, at 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 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", using the name 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 public tastes changed - 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 (3)

Often played the role of a sexy, foul temptress whose beauty and dangerous allure led good-hearted men to their doom.
Often wore panda-like eye makeup
Her famous line "Kiss me, my fool."

Trivia (27)

Older sister of actress/writer Lori Bara.
Attended and graduated from Walnut Hills High School (1903).
Attended and graduated from the University of Cincinnati.
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 that of an exotic foreign beauty, 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 who 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 in 1937, in a fire at Fox Studios. Bara had her own personal archive. She did not realize that the nitrate film had disintegrated until the 1940s when she took some reels out to show a child friend, who she hoped would play herself in a film.
In 1930, she lived at 632 North Alpine Drive in Beverly Hills, California.
Almost all of her forty films have been lost (only six survive, as well as a handful of fragments, as of 2020), leaving her with perhaps the highest percentage of lost work of anybody with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It is reported that Neil Gaiman took inspiration from her, for the character Death, 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 wealth.
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 that she had spent her early years in the Sahara Desert, under the shadow of the sphinx, and that she had then moved to France to become a stage actress. The truth is that she had never visited Egypt or France. They called her the "Serpent of the Nile" and they encouraged Bara to discuss mysticism and the occult in interviews.
Hoping to break out of her vamp typecast, Bara made the film Kathleen Mavourneen (1919) in a Mary Pickford styled role. The film flopped and, mutually tired of each other, she and Fox 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).
Her mother, Pauline DeCoppett (1861-1957), was Jewish and she was born in Switzerland. She outlived her 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.
Theda Bara Way, Fort Lee, New Jersey is named 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 'Fatty' 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 (1917) still survive. It was last seen in 1934 when Cecil B. DeMille viewed it for his own remake.
She announced, during a 1936 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, that she was planning to return to films and that she was in the process of finding the right script.
When Bara died she left an estate of $400,000. Sums were bequeathed to her husband, her brother's widow, The Motion Picture Relief Fund (in her name), as well as to children's hospitals. The remaining bulk of the estate was bequeathed to Theda's sister Lori.
After Bara's sensational early success at 20th Century Fox, the entire Goodman Family took the name of Bara.
Bara was very near-sighted and, like other myopic actors, she had to memorize the on set position of the furniture and props. She would then rehearse meticulously, working around them, before the cameras rolled.
She was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6307 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Following her death, she was interred as Theda Bara Brabin at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Not only were critics of the opinion that Bara was miscast in Kathleen Mavourneen (1919), but Irish Hibernian societies were enraged that an actress of Jewish extraction was playing an Irish heroine. In protest, they sent their members to stone the theaters exhibiting it and to set off stink bombs within them.

Personal Quotes (10)

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. Nobody had destroyed the grand illusion. 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.
To be good is to be forgotten. I'm going to be so bad, I'll always be remembered.
I started out as a star and remained a star.
There's a little bit of vampire instinct in every woman.
Although at first thought you don't classify Claudette Colbert as what was once called a "vampire," I think she will probably give an excellent performance [in Cleopatra (1934)]. When I played the part I read every book I could find concerning the Egyptian Queen and discovered to my amazement that she was actually a very capable housewife with several children, not especially beautiful nor the physically alluring siren handed down by our legendary history.
It's the stars themselves who have been failing the fans. People have always been hungry for glamour - they still are. But it takes showmanship and a constant sense of responsibility to hold their interest. A star mustn't allow her public to see her in slacks. She should dress beautifully at all times - I don't mean in a bizarre way. She must live their dreams for them and remain a figure of mystery. Glamour is the most essential part of Hollywood.

Salary (3)

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

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