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.
Available from Kino Video (DVD and VHS), and various public domain video companies, and on Google VideoUnchastened Woman (1925)
Available from Movies Unlimited, and various public domain video companiesMadame Mystery (1926)
Shortened version formerly available on the Grapevine tape of Unchastened Woman
The surviving few seconds are up on YouTube
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.
©2001, by Greta de Groat. All Rights Reserved
Last revised September 28, 2011