Bara in 1921
Theodosia Burr Goodman
July 29, 1885
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||April 7, 1955 69) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale|
|Alma mater||University of Cincinnati|
Theda Bara ( // THEE-də BARR-ə; born Theodosia Burr Goodman; July 29, 1885 – April 7, 1955) was an American silent film and stage actress.
Bara was one of the more popular actresses of the silent era and one of cinema's early sex symbols. Her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname "The Vamp" (short for vampire, a seductive woman),later fueling the rising popularity in "vamp" roles that encapsulated exoticism and sexual domination. The studios promoted a fictitious persona for Bara as an Egyptian-born woman interested in the occult. Bara made more than 40 films between 1914 and 1926, but most were lost in the 1937 Fox vault fire. After her marriage to Charles Brabin in 1921, she made two more feature films then retired from acting in 1926, never appearing in a sound film.
Bara was born Theodosia Burr Goodman on July 29, 1885 in the Avondale section of Cincinnati, Ohio.She was named after the daughter of US Vice President Aaron Burr. Her father was Bernard Goodman (1853–1936), a prosperous Jewish tailor born in Poland. Her mother, Pauline Louise Françoise (née de Coppett; 1861–1957), was born in Switzerland. Bernard and Pauline married in 1882. Theda had two younger siblings: Marque (1888–1954) and Esther (1897–1965), who also became a film actress under the name of Lori Bara.
Bara attended Walnut Hills High School, graduating in 1903. After attending the University of Cincinnati for two years, she worked mainly in local theater productions, but did explore other projects. After moving to New York City in 1908, she made her Broadway debut the same year in The Devil.
Most of Bara's early films were shot along the East Coast, where the film industry was centered at that time, primarily at Fox Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Bara lived with her family in New York City during this time. The rise of Hollywood as the center of the American film industry forced her to relocate to Los Angeles to film the epic Cleopatra (1917), which became one of Bara's biggest hits. No known prints of Cleopatra exist today, but numerous photographs of Bara in costume as the Queen of the Nile have survived.[ citation needed ]
Between 1915 and 1919, Bara was Fox studio's biggest star, but tired of being typecast as a vamp, she allowed her five-year contract with Fox to expire. Her final Fox film was The Lure of Ambition (1919). In 1920, she turned briefly to the stage, appearing on Broadway in The Blue Flame . Bara's fame drew large crowds to the theater, but her acting was savaged by critics.
Her career suffered without Fox Studios' support, and she did not make another film until The Unchastened Woman (1925) for Chadwick Pictures. Bara retired after making only one more film, the short comedy Madame Mystery (1926), for Hal Roach. Directed by Stan Laurel, she parodied her vamp image within the film.[ citation needed ]
At the height of her fame, Bara earned $4,000 per week (the equivalent of over $56,000 per week in 2017 adjusted dollars). Bara's better-known roles were as the "vamp", although she attempted to avoid typecasting by playing wholesome heroines in films such as Under Two Flags and Her Double Life. She appeared as Juliet in a version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet . Although Bara took her craft seriously, she was too successful as an exotic "wanton woman" to develop a more versatile career.[ citation needed ]
The origin of Bara's stage name is disputed; The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats says it came from director Frank Powell, who learned Theda had a relative named Barranger, and that Theda was a childhood nickname. In promoting the 1917 film Cleopatra , Fox Studio publicists noted that the name was an anagram of Arab death, and her press agents, to enhance her exotic appeal to moviegoers, falsely promoted the young Ohio native as "the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara."In 1917, the Goodman family legally changed its surname to Bara.
Bara was known for wearing very revealing costumes in her films. Such outfits were banned from Hollywood films after the Production Code (a.k.a. the Hays Code) started in 1930, and then was more strongly enforced in 1934. It was popular at that time to promote an actress as mysterious, with an exotic background. The studios promoted Bara with a massive publicity 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. (In fact, Bara never had been to Egypt, and her time in France amounted to just a few months.) They called her the "Serpent of the Nile" and encouraged her to discuss mysticism and the occult in interviews. Some film historians point to this as the birth of two Hollywood phenomena: the studio publicity department and the press agent (later evolving into the public relations person).[ citation needed ]
A 2016 book by Joan Craig with Beverly F. Stout chronicles many personal, first-hand accounts of the lives of Theda Bara and Charles Brabin.It reveals a great dichotomy between Theda Bara's screen persona and her real-life persona. Included are Bara's surprised responses to the critical reactions to her screen portrayals from a sector of the community. The author was befriended by Theda Bara and Charles Brabin beginning when she was a young girl. Craig's photographic-like memory paints an important picture of how they lived, where they lived, and what they said and did, even to the point of describing in great detail most of the rooms of their house. The book describes how Bara, who learned pattern making and wig making from her mother and father, designed and created most of the costumes and gowns she wore in her films, including the striking costumes she wore in Cleopatra.
Bara married British-born American film director Charles Brabin in 1921. They honeymooned at The Pines Hotel in Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada, and later purchased a 400-hectare (990-acre) property down the coast from Digby at Harbourville, Nova Scotia, overlooking the Bay of Fundy, eventually building a summer home they called Baranook. They had no children. Bara resided in a villa-style home in Cincinnati, which served as the "honors villa" at Xavier University. Demolition of the home began in July 2011.
In 1936, she appeared on Lux Radio Theatre during a broadcast version of The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy. She did not appear in the play but instead announced her plans to make a movie comeback,which never materialized. She appeared on radio again in 1939 as a guest on Texaco Star Theatre .
In 1949, producer Buddy DeSylva and Columbia Pictures expressed interest in making a movie of Bara's life to star Betty Hutton, but the project never materialized.
On April 7, 1955, after a lengthy stay at California Lutheran Hospital in Los Angeles, Bara died there of stomach cancer.She was survived by her husband Charles Brabin, her mother, and sister Lori. She was interred as Theda Bara Brabin at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Bara often is cited as the first sex symbol of the film era.
For her contributions to the film industry, Bara received a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Her star is located at 6307 Hollywood Boulevard.
Bara never appeared in a sound film, lost or otherwise. A 1937 fire at Fox's nitrate film storage vaults in New Jersey destroyed most of that studio's silent films. Bara made more than 40 films between 1914 and 1926, but complete prints of only six still exist: The Stain (1914), A Fool There Was (1915), East Lynne (1916), The Unchastened Woman (1925), and two short comedies for Hal Roach.[ citation needed ]
In addition to these, a few of her films remain in fragments, including Cleopatra (just a few seconds of footage), a clip thought to be from The Soul of Buddha, and a few other unidentified clips featured in the documentary Theda Bara et William Fox (2001). Most of the clips can be seen in the documentary The Woman with the Hungry Eyes (2006). As to vamping, critics stated that her portrayal of calculating, cold-hearted women was morally instructive to men. Bara responded by saying "I will continue doing vampires as long as people sin."Additional footage has been found which shows her behind the scenes on a picture. While the hairstyle has led some to theorize that this may be from The Lure of Ambition , this has not been confirmed.
In 1994, she was honored with her image on a U.S. postage stamp designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.The Fort Lee Film Commission dedicated Main Street and Linwood Avenue in Fort Lee, New Jersey as "Theda Bara Way" in May 2006 to honor Bara, who made many of her films at the Fox Studio on Linwood and Main.
Over a period of several years, filmmaker and film historian Phillip Dye reconstructed Cleopatra on video. Titled Lost Cleopatra, the full-length feature was created by editing together production-still picture montages combined with the surviving film clip. The script was based on the original scenario with modifications derived from research into censorship reports, reviews of the film, and synopses from period magazines.Dye screened the film at the Hollywood Heritage Museum on February 8, 2017.
|1914||The Stain||Gang moll||Credited as Theodosia Goodman|
|1915||A Fool There Was||The Vampire|
|1915||The Kreutzer Sonata||Celia Friedlander||Lost film|
|1915||The Clemenceau Case||Iza||Lost film|
|1915||The Devil's Daughter||Gioconda Dianti||Lost film|
|1915||Lady Audley's Secret||Helen Talboys||Lost film|
|1915||The Two Orphans||Henriette||Lost film|
|1915||The Galley Slave||Francesca Brabaut||Lost film|
|1916||The Serpent||Vania Lazar||Lost film|
|1916||Gold and the Woman||Theresa Decordova||Lost film|
|1916||The Eternal Sapho||Laura Bruffins||Lost film|
|1916||East Lynne||Lady Isabel Carlisle|
|1916||Under Two Flags||Cigarette||Lost film|
|1916||Her Double Life||Mary Doone||Lost film|
|1916||Romeo and Juliet||Juliet||Lost film|
|1916||The Vixen||Elsie Drummond||Lost film|
|1917||The Darling of Paris||Esmeralda||Lost film|
|1917||The Tiger Woman||Princess Petrovitch||Lost film|
|1917||Her Greatest Love||Hazel||Lost film|
|1917||Heart and Soul||Jess||Lost film|
|1917||Camille||Marguerite Gauthier||Lost film|
|1917||Cleopatra||Cleopatra||Approximately 20 seconds exist|
|1917||The Rose of Blood||Lisza Tapenka||Lost film|
|1917||Madame Du Barry||Jeanne Vaubernier||Lost film|
|1918||The Forbidden Path||Mary Lynde||Lost film|
|1918||The Soul of Buddha||Priestess||Story, Lost film|
|1918||Under the Yoke||Maria Valverda||Lost film|
|1918||When a Woman Sins||Lilian Marchard / Poppea||Lost film|
|1918||The She-Devil||Lorette||Lost film|
|1919||The Light||Blanchette Dumond, aka Madame Lefresne||Lost film|
|1919||When Men Desire||Marie Lohr||Lost film|
|1919||The Siren's Song||Marie Bernais||Lost film|
|1919||A Woman There Was||Princess Zara||Lost film|
|1919||Kathleen Mavourneen||Kathleen Cavanagh||Lost film|
|1919||La Belle Russe||Fleurett Sackton/La Belle Russe||Lost film|
|1919||The Lure of Ambition||Olga Dolan||Lost film; 82-second outtake does exist|
|1925||The Unchastened Woman||Caroline Knollys|
|1926||Madame Mystery||Madame Mysterieux||Short film|
|1926||45 Minutes from Hollywood||Herself||Short film|
Bara is referenced in the 1921 Bert Kalmar/Harry Ruby song "Rebecca Came Back from Mecca"as well as their 1922 "Sheik From Avenue B," sung by Fanny Brice.
Bara was one of three actresses (Pola Negri and Mae Murray were the others) whose eyes were combined to form the Chicago International Film Festival's logo, a stark, black and white close up of the composite eyes set as repeated frames in a strip of film.
The International Times ' logo is a black-and-white image of Theda Bara. The founders' intention had been to use an image of actress Clara Bow, 1920s "It girl", but a picture of Theda Bara was used by accident, and once deployed, not changed.
In June 1996, two biographies of Bara were released: Ron Genini's Theda Bara: A Biography (McFarland) and Eve Golden's Vamp (Emprise). In October 2005 TimeLine Films of Culver City premiered the film biography Theda Bara: The Woman with the Hungry Eyes.
Bara has been the subject of several works of fiction, including In Theda Bara's Tent by Diana Altman, The Director's Cut: A Theda Bara Mystery by Christopher DiGrazia, and the play Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi by Bob Johnston.
Bara appears as a character in the books Vampyres of Hollywood and Love Bites by Adrienne Barbeau, and in Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story by Clive Barker.
In season 2, episode 1 of The Lucy Show , Vivian Bagley and Lucy argue over who should play Cleopatra in an upcoming play; Lucy states "I've seen the movie twelve times!" and Vivian quips "She means the one with Theda Bara".
A photo of Bara as Cleopatra is the album artwork for The Lumineers record Cleopatra released in 2016.
In May 2016, a memoir titled Theda Bara, My Mentor, Under the Wings of Hollywood's First Femme Fatale, by Joan Craig with Beverly Stout, was released. Young Joan, in the companionship of Bara during the 1940s and 1950s, includes tales of Bara's husband, Charles Brabin, friends Marion Davies, Clark Gable, Victor Fleming, and other stars of the past.
In season 2, episode 7 of the television series Downton Abbey , butler Carson describes the newly designed bathrooms at a nearby estate as "like something out of a film with Theda Bara".
In the book Queen of the Flowers, a Phryne Fisher mystery by Kerry Greenwood, a reference is made to "a reply straight from the last Theda Bara movie" (Constable Publishers, London, p.236).
A femme fatale, sometimes called a maneater or vamp, is a stock character of a mysterious, beautiful, and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, deadly traps. She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to enchant, entice and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as verging on supernatural; hence, the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, witch, having power over men.
Ida Estelle Taylor was an American actress, singer, model, and animal rights activist. With "dark-brown, almost black hair and brown eyes," she was regarded as one of the most beautiful silent film stars of the 1920s.
Alice Hollister was an American silent film actress who appeared in around 90 films between 1910 and 1925. She is known for her roles in movies such as From the Manger to the Cross and The Vampire.
A Fool There Was is an American silent drama film produced by William Fox, directed by Frank Powell, and starring Theda Bara. Released in 1915, the film was long considered controversial for such risqué intertitle cards as "Kiss me, my fool!"
James Gordon Edwards was an American film director, producer, and writer who began his career as a stage actor and stage director.
Cleopatra is a 1917 American silent historical drama film based on H. Rider Haggard's 1889 novel Cleopatra, the 1890 play Cleopatre by Émile Moreau and Victorien Sardou, and the play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. The film starred Theda Bara in the title role, Fritz Leiber Sr. as Julius Caesar, and Thurston Hall as Mark Antony. The film is now considered lost, with only fragments surviving.
Charles J. Brabin was a British-American film director and screenwriter.
Virginia Belle Pearson was an American stage and film actress. She made fifty-one films in a career which extended from 1910 until 1932.
The Stain is a 1914 American silent drama film directed by Frank Powell and starring Edward José and Thurlow Bergen. Its cast also includes Theda Bara in her screen debut, although she is credited under her birth name Theodosia Goodman. The production was shot at Fox Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey and on location in Lake Ronkonkoma, New York. A print of the film was discovered in Australia in the 1990s and is preserved at the George Eastman House.
The Kreutzer Sonata is a lost 1915 American silent romantic drama film directed by Herbert Brenon and costarring Nance O'Neil, Theda Bara, and William H. Shay. The film was based on the 1902 play of the same name by Jacob Gordin, which was based on Leo Tolstoy's 1889 novella. Produced by Fox Film Corporation, it was shot at the company's studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Sin is a 1915 American silent drama film written and directed by Herbert Brenon and starring Theda Bara. It was produced by Fox Film Corporation and shot at the Fox Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The film is now considered to be lost.
Carmen is a 1915 American silent drama film, written and directed by Raoul Walsh, which starred Theda Bara. It is based on the 1845 novella Carmen, the film was shot at the Fox Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey. It is now considered lost.
The Soul of Buddha is a 1918 American silent romance film directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara, who also wrote the film's story. The film was produced by Fox Film Corporation and shot at the Fox Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Helen Louise Gardner was an American stage and film actress, screenwriter, film producer and costume designer.
While New York Sleeps is a 1920 American crime drama film produced by Fox Film Corporation and directed by Charles Brabin, who was the husband of actress Theda Bara. The film tells three distinct episodic stories using the same actors, Estelle Taylor and Marc McDermott. Long thought to be a lost film like many other Fox Film productions from this period, a copy of this movie is now in the collection of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Maxie is a 1985 American fantasy-comedy film directed by Paul Aaron, and starring Glenn Close, Mandy Patinkin, Valerie Curtin, Ruth Gordon and Barnard Hughes. The plot is based on the novel Marion's Wall (1973) by Jack Finney about a woman who is possessed by a very outgoing female ghost — a budding actress from the 1920s — named Maxie, who wants to fulfill her destiny.
A Woman There Was is a 1919 American silent South Seas drama film directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara. The film is based on the short story "Creation's Tears", by George James Hopkins. Bara portrays Zara, the daughter of a South Seas island tribal chief, who falls in love with a missionary and is killed after helping him escape.
J. Gordon Edwards (1867–1925) was a Canadian American film director, screenwriter, and producer of the silent era. His oeuvre consists of over fifty feature films made between 1914 and 1924. He is perhaps best known for directing twenty-four films starring vamp actress Theda Bara—including Cleopatra, her most famous role— and also the 1921 epic The Queen of Sheba. Edwards was born in Montreal and educated at a military academy with the expectation that he would pursue a career as a British Army officer. He decided against a life in the military in favor of a future in theater. At the time, the Canadian theater and film industry was limited primarily to repertory theatre, so Edwards became one of many to emigrate to the United States to work in the field. He had a short career as an actor before becoming a stage director. By 1910, he was working for American motion picture producer William Fox, who sent him to Europe to study film production.
When Men Desire is a 1919 American silent drama film directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara. It is presumed to be a lost film.
The Blue Flame is a four-act play written by George V. Hobart and John Willard, who revised an earlier version by Leta Vance Nicholson. In 1920, producer Albert H. Woods staged the play on Broadway and on tour across the United States. Ruth Gordon, the main character, is a religious young woman who dies and is revived by her scientist fiancé as a soulless femme fatale. She seduces several men and involves them in crimes, including drug use and murder. In the final act, her death and resurrection are revealed to be a dream. The production starred Theda Bara, a popular silent film actress who was known for playing similar roles in movies.
Heralded as one of the screen triumphs of the day, "Camille", adapted from the Dumas novel, and with Theda Bara the featured player, fulfills the promises of the management of Poli's Theater, where this film really heads the bill this half of the week. Vaudeville must...
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