Theda Bara ~ Hollywood's First Vamp

Theda Bara

Theda Bara was a silent film actress who became famous playing exotic vamps

She was born Theodosia Burr Goodman on July 29, 1885 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, Bernard Goodman, was a successful Jewish tailor from Poland. After graduating from high school she enrolled at the University of Cincinnati. When she was twenty-three she moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. Theda appeared on Broadway in The Devil and went on tour with a theater troupe. She made her film debut as an extra in the 1914 silent The Stain. Then she was signed by Fox and given the leading role in A Fool There Was. In 1917 she starred in the historical drama Cleopatra. It was a huge hit and made her one of Hollywood's most popular stars. The dark haired beauty made a string of successful films including The Rose Of Blood, Madame Du Barry, Salome, and The She-Devil. Theda was always cast as a vamp and she became known for wearing very revealing costumes. To make her seem more exotic Fox falsely claimed that she she was Egyptian and had spent her early years living the Sahara Desert.

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At the peak of her fame she was earning $4,000 a week and received hundreds of marriage proposals from fans. She started having an affair with Charles Brabin who had directed her in La Belle Russe and While New York Sleeps. Charles divorced his wife so he could be with her. By 1919 she was tired of playing vamps and walked out on her Fox contract. Then she starred on Broadway in The Blue Flame. Unfortunately the show got terrible reviews. On July 2, 1921 she married Charles. He wanted her to quit acting and it was rumored he cheated on her. Theda returned to the screen in 1925 to star in the silent drama The Unchastened Woman. After making the 1926 Hal Roach comedy Madame Mystery she decided to retire. During the 1930s she appeared on several radio shows. Sadly in late 1954 she was diagnosed with abdominal cancer. On April 7, 1955 she died at the age of sixty-nine. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

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