The Vamp in a Classic Role
Theda Bara was one of the first sex symbols of the screen. Her name was supposedly an anagram of “Arab Death.” (that is completely fabricated along with many other “facts” of her life.) Bara became a star in 1915 as a “vampire” (not the blood sucking kind – a notorious woman who drives men wild with desire using her wiles and charm and wreaks havoc in their lives) in A Fool There Was. She cemented immortality in 1917 with her portrayal of the title role in Cleopatra. Bara was pretty much typecast as the vampire (later shortened to “vamp”) and her film career stalled by the end of 1919. She appeared in only three films in the 1920’s and never made any sound films, retiring in 1926. She died in Los Angeles in 1955 at the age of 69.
While some today would not necessarily consider Bara a beauty, there is definitely something very appealing about her. A naturalness that comes through. In a lot of ways she represents more real women of that age and much more than her modern Hollywood contemporaries of Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson representing today’s woman.
Bara’s heavier legs and abdomen are shown in her movies and photos. Would modern lead actresses be permitted to display extra poundage in our hyper-perfect-looks media without being skewered a la Oprah or Kirstie Alley?
Some photos of Bara when she was at the height of her career: