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Theda Bara

Who is more of a diva than a vamp? Unlike later vamps such as Nita Naldi and Barbara LaMarr, Theda was the undisputed star of her films. Her career was short but brilliant, but only four of her films survive today, making it difficult for a modern audience to really know what she was all about. In her first starring film, A Fool There Was (1914), she is not so much languorously seductive and calculating and deliciously bitchy. She is mature and witty in The Unchastened Woman (1925), made after her starring years, and she kids her own image in the Hal Roach short Madame Mystery (1926). Fortunately, all of these films are available on video (in addition to Roach's Forty-five Minutes from Hollywood (1926), which has a brief clip of her in her Madame Mystery costume). George Eastman House has a print of the old melodrama East Lynne (1916), which isn't a vamp part (half of her role's weren't). Aside from an alleged extra role in The Stain (1914), this is all that remains of Theda Bara's career. Sadly, Cleopatra (1917) her most famous film, survived until the 1950s, when it perished in a fire at The Museum of Modern Art in New York before it could be copied, and only a few feet survive.

On the Web

The Internet Movie Database filmography

The Silent Ladies photo gallery

an excerpt from Eve Golden's "Vamp: The Rise of Theda Bara," from Classic Images

The Lost Film Legacy of Theda Bara

Glen Pringle's Silent Star of the Month feature on Theda Bara.

Bio on Golden Silents

Theda Bara's entry in The Blue Book of the Screen (1923)

Theda Bara's entry in Stars of the Photoplay (1916)


Review of Ronald Genini's "Theda Bara: a Biography of the Silent Screen Vamp"

Theda Bara page from Bombshells.com

Denny Jackson's Theda Bara page

Theda's Hollywood

Tart City's tribute to Theda Bara

Java's Bachelor Pad's photo gallery of Theda Bara

Wikipedia article on Theda Bara

Klang und Kleid's photos of Bara

Movie Legends tribute on YouTube
(and search YouTube for other Theda Bara clips and tributes)

Review of A Fool There Was from Silents are Golden

Review of The Unchastened Woman from Silents are Golden

Silent Films Available on Video

A Fool There Was (1914)

Available from Kino Video (DVD and VHS), and various public domain video companies, and on Google Video

Unchastened Woman (1925)

Available from Movies Unlimited, and various public domain video companies

Madame Mystery (1926)

Shortened version formerly available on the Grapevine tape of Unchastened Woman

Cleopatra (1917)

The surviving few seconds are up on YouTube

Further Reading

Golden, Eve. Vamp : the rise and fall of Theda Bara. Vestal, N.Y. : Emprise Pub., c1996.

Genini, Ronald. Theda Bara : a biography of the silent screen vamp, with a filmography. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., c1996.

Lahue, Kalton C. Ladies in Distress. South Brunswick and New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., 1971. p. 19-29.

Franklin, Joe [and William K. Everson].Classics of the Silent Screen. New York : Citadel Press, 5th ed., 1971 (originally published 1959): p. 124-125.

Other Vamps on the Web

The Nita Naldi Webpage

Barbara LaMarr, a Memorial Tribute, in Classic Images

©2001, by Greta de Groat. All Rights Reserved

Last revised September 28, 2011