Valeska Suratt

Active - 1915 - 1917  |   Born - Jun 28, 1882   |   Died - Jul 2, 1962   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Crime

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

Ridiculous looking by modern standards, silent screen femme fatale Valeska Suratt arrived with some fanfare in 1915 as producer Jesse J. Lasky's The Immigrant. An obvious imitator of Theda Bara, Surratt (who actually hailed from Terre Haute, IN) was quickly corralled by Bara's employer William Fox. Although this suggests a move to keep Bara in line, it may have been an effort to corner the vamp market altogether. After all, Fox also had the equally devastating Virginia Pearson in his stable. Suratt did her bodice-ripping best in films with titles such as The Siren and The Slave (both 1917), but the vamp craze was already waning and there was really only one Bara anyway. Suratt later claimed to have written a screenplay about Mary Magdalene which she misguidedly handed over to Will H. Hays, of the notorious Hays Code. Hays, Suratt claimed, passed it on to director Cecil B. DeMille, who of course would go on to create The King of Kings (1927), featuringJacqueline Logan as the biblical femme fatale. When no royalties were forthcoming, Suratt sued Hays, DeMille, and screenwriter Jeanie MacPherson. She lost, left show business altogether, and reportedly, later became something of a religious zealot and a recluse.