“Vamp” – Theda Bara

rolfThere was no actress who steamed up the screens
of early motion picture
theatres more than
Theda Bara– – –

She has been called
the original ‘vamp’:

and she really was
the American silent
screen’s first sex symbol.

Theda appeared in more than 40 films,

and although many a1
of them are now lost….

those films that remain
extant show an actress
who totally understood
how to project a personal
sense of smoldering, exotic
sensuality and desirability
through the camera lens.

The ‘vamp’ archetype
is an old one —

Men have almost
an inborn taste
for the idea
of a provocative,
dominant, wanton,
and assertive female,

who uses the power
of her femininity
and sexuality to ‘seduce’
them away from their
sense of ethics and judgement –

mystery—- capable of ‘taking control’
of their resources and their passions,

Even to the point of personal ruin.

Theda played that role
on screen like no one ever had,
and no one ever will—

….even modern literature
has rarely seen such
1aan intense characterization
of this concept —

And in this respect,
her performances have
more affinity for the
psychologist than the
cinema student.

The scripts could be
vastly different,

….. but she always brought
this allegorical aspect
into her characters.

In movies like:
“A Fool There Was”,
“The Devil’s Daughter”,
“Gold and the Woman”,
“The Unchastened Woman”,
and “When a Woman Sins”,

….. she played the head-strongthedabara ambitious female
that would stop at nothing
to get what she wanted-

whether the motive
was a mercenary one,
namely,
$$$$$…..

….. or whether her character
was driven by desire
for the fulfillment
of deeper needs and passions.1916

In the classic films:
“Sin”,
“Vixen”,
and the “Eternal Sappho”,

…. her rendering of the vamp
reflected the idea that sex itself
was subject to the darker forces a2
of the anima and animus
over which a person could
have very little control.

She also played more
classical divas like “Cleopatra”,

and Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”,

thedabara……but always with that very unique Theda Bara edge.

The costumes used in a
Theda Bara picture were
often very alluring and transparent–

Her beautiful buxom figure,
deep set eyes, and almost
mesmerizing body language
combined to complete the package —

The effect that she had
on audiences can be
partly experienced by simply
looking at posters and publications
from the era featuring her image.sins

Male audience members
couldn’t take their eyes off her,

…… and women would
often faint or scream
during a performance.

Her impact on screen was magnified by the fact that movies were still in their infancy,

….and most audience members
had some degree of difficulty
remembering that what
they were seeing in the theatre
wasn’t reality, despite the
lack of sound or color.

She was quite aware of this effect,
and although she sometimes
tired of the ‘vamp’ role,

she was quoted in the 1920’s as saying:

“I will continue doing
vampires as long as people sin”.

1aWhile some film critics
like to speak of actresses
like the beautiful Clara Bow
as the earliest example
of a silent screen sex symbol,

Theda Bara’s work predates the
“It Girl” by almost 10 years,

….and while Clara’s persona
was one very in tune
with the twenties —
fun loving, perky,
and somewhat even innocent,

Bara’s work was Gothic,bara
darkly Jungian, and cerebral —

— as if nudging the
unconscious mind
where unresolved
fears and lusts,
the by-products of an
unenlightened
industrial age, still lurked.

(and still lurk)

Bara was born in 1885,
in Cincinnati, Ohio,
as Theodosia Burr Goodman,

…..and first appeared on stage
at the age of 23 in a play
called “The Devil” (1908).

Her first film was made in 1914,
in New York, called “The Stain”,

(she made 4 more in
the following year )

…. but within three years,
she, along with most of rest
of the fledgling motion
picture industry, had
moved to Hollywood, California.

aShe retired in 1926, and consequently, never made a ‘talking picture’.

She worked mainly for Fox Studios,

and when the Fox nitrate-film archive in New Jersey burned down in 1937,

—– most of her films
burned with it.

What we have left of her work
are some short previews,
fragments of clips, and
complete copies of only 6 films.

And, of course,
—- these wonderful posters and pictures.

One added point —

henry cliveThere are several very
important pin up art pieces,
that were inspired by Miss Bara —

The top picture on this post
was painted by Rolf Armstrong.

Another, this one on the right,
featuring Miss Bara as Cleopatra,
was painted by Henry Clive.

And, of course,
there was a set of
pictures taken of Marilyn Monroe,
doing homage to Theda Bara
as Cleopatra, as well.

A picture from that series is below.

marilynthedabara

.

So, here’s to beautiful,
sensual women of every age and era !!!!!

Hoy!

.

vamp