Monday, March 20, 2017

Theda Bara: First Sex Symbol of the Silver Screen

My hometown of Cincinnati is the hometown of some very famous screen legends including mega-director Steven Spielberg, actress/singer Doris Day and actress/dancer Vera-Ellen. Another famous legend who hailed from these parts is Theda Bara, the silver screen's first sex symbol.

As a sex symbol, Theda's real life didn't exactly fit that mold. She experienced no scandals, had no substance abuse problems, and she was only married once, and happily at that. And although she retired from the screen while still in her prime before the advent of talking pictures, when she passed away decades later in 1955 at the age of sixty-nine, she died wealthy.

Here's more about this unconventional sex symbol from Wikipedia:

Bara was one of the most popular actresses of the silent era, and her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname The Vamp (short for vampire). 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 and retired from acting in 1926.

She was born Theodosia Burr Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio. 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.

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 claimed inaccurately that she was "the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara."

At the height of her fame, Bara earned $4,000 per week. She was one of the most popular movie stars, ranking behind only Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Bara's best-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 also 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.

To read more about Theda Bara, click here.

Are you familiar with Theda Bara? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


William Kendall said...

I can't recall ever hearing about her before.

Maria McKenzie said...

I'm a little surprised, William. You like old movies, but I guess hers are a little too old☺.