Screen’s First Sex Symbol

By | Apr 6, 2012

Nearly 100 years ago Theda Bara was one of the biggest Silent Screen Stars, now other than those who are fans of Silent Movies she is almost completely unknown. She made more than 40 feature films between 1914 and 1926 however most of these films are considered ‘Lost films’ since complete prints of only six of her films still exist.

William Fox kept his Movie Studio on the East Coast in New York City, instead of moving like many others to Los Angeles. A Fool There Was featured Bara in the role of woman who used charms to seduce and corrupt a moral Wall Street lawyer. The film was based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Vampire. Her screen credit was listed as the Vampire, although not a blood sucking one. From this came the word Vamp. The success of this film allowed Fox to create Fox Film Corporation.

She became a star as much through publicity as for her starring roles. Fox’s team had her develop a mysterious accent, for personal appearances since her film were silent, and dressed her in makeup, veils, copious jewelry and furs as the Vamp. In many ways she was the first Goth girl.

Theda Bara as CleopatraHer movies were just as mysterious and sexy as her off screen persona. Her costumes were scant and showed a great deal of skin in a time when women were always fully covered. She was the screen’s first sex symbol. Many consider her finest role being Cleopatra in 1917. The film was one of her biggest hits.

In 1919 her five year contact with Fox ended and was not renewed. Nearly all of her films were made during this five year period. After leaving Fox she would do The Unchastened Woman in 1956 and Madame Mystery in 1926, her last film. She married film director Charles Brabin in 1921.

She was born Theodosia Burr Goodman on July 29, 1885 and died on April 7, 1955 of abdominal cancer at the age of 69.


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1 Comment so far
  1. Jessica November 1, 2010 4:18 pm

    So you’re trying to tell me that she did a movie when she was dead?

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