From the early 1900s I give you The Vamp, one of the most popular silent film actresses of her era, Theodosia Burr Goodman, aka Theda Bara (1885-1955).
Theda Bara is recognized as one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols, and it was her many femme fatale roles that earned her the nickname The Vamp.
After attending the University of Cincinatti for two years, she moved to New York in 1908, where she started her acting career in the Broadway show The Devil (1908).
In the time span of 1914-26, Bara starred in more than 40 films, but, sadly, most of these were destroyed forever during the fire at Fox Studios’ film storage vault in 1937. Tragic, I know, I would love to have seen Cleopatra (1917) for instance, one of her biggest hits, but no known copies exist today.
However, six of her films have survived: The Stain (1914), A Fool There Was (1914), East Lynne (1915), The Unchastened Woman (1925), Madame Mystery (1925) and 45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926). A Fool There Was, became a huge success and gave its producer, William Fox, enough money to found Fox Film Corporation.
Theda Bara was well-known for wearing very revealing costumes in her films, and I think that’s part of why she’s still an icon, she looks stylish and risque in a way that’s very unusual for her time. That, together with the large amount of lost films creates an interesting and somewhat mysterious figure. And, I mean, just about every photo I see of her is art – she looks awesome.