The original vamp of the silver screen, Theda Bara became an icon of sensuality and the exotic for generations. Born Theodosia Goodman, she began work on the New York stage under her own name before she was cast as a vampire seductress in her first film, A Fool There Was. Fox Film executives, nervous about casting an unknown, changed her name and gave her an exotic origin story as the love child of a French artist and his Arabian mistress. Bara’s magnetic performance made her an overnight success, and between 1915 and 1919 she starred in over forty films, becoming a major draw for audiences as well as for the criticism of censors. Bara’s dark exoticism and the veils and bangles she wore helped create the archetype of the seductive vamp, but her career was short-lived—as American tastes changed, Bara was passed over in favor of more “wholesome” starlets and found it difficult to get work. While a 1937 fire at the Fox Film vaults destroyed all but a handful of her movies, she endures as a cinematic icon.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Theda Bara." (Viewed on September 20, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/bara-theda>.