Theda Bara

Active - 1915 - 2009  |   Born - Jul 20, 1885   |   Died - Apr 7, 1955   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Although publicized as an Egyptian of royal lineage, silent film actress Theda Bara was actually born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her exotic good looks brought her to the attention of Fox studios in 1914; reasoning that there were too many sweet little ingenues in films of that period, Fox decided to create a worldly "vamp" character, a woman who could destroy men with little more than a sexy glance. The studio changed Theodosia's name to Theda Bara (which coincidentally was an anagram for "Arab Death"), casting her in a liberal adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's A Fool There Was(1914). She became Fox's biggest star, appearing in as many as ten feature films per year, including Salome (1918) and Cleopatra (1918). Her somewhat overripe histrionics became out of fashion by 1920, so she retired from acting to married life; Bara resurfaced in a "so bad it's good" Broadway play The Blue Flame, then made an unsuccessful film comeback attempt in 1925. Her last screen work was in a two-reel lampoon of her vamp character, Madame Mystery (1926), directed by, of all people, Stan Laurel. Though happily married and fabulously wealthy, Bara never gave up the dream that she might someday return to screen glory; at the time of her death in 1955, Hollywood's casting service directories still listed the actress as "at liberty."

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