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Theda Bara Overview:

Legendary actress, Theda Bara, was born Theodosia Burr Goodman on Jul 29, 1885 in Avondale, OH. Bara died at the age of 69 on Apr 7, 1955 in Los Angeles, CA and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn (Glendale) Cemetery in Glendale, CA.

Early Life and Career

Theodosia Burr Goodman was born on April 7th, 1885 in Cincinnati, Ohio, although the studio listed her birth as the union between a French artiste and his Egyptian concubine and possessed supernatural powers somewhere in the Saharan desert. The reality of her early life, however, was not nearly as mysteriously glamorous. Her father, Bernard, was successful Jewish tailor who emigrated from Poland and her mother, Pauline Louise, emigrated from Switzerland. She lived a fairly normal quiet life in the Midwest, becoming interested in the theatre during her time in Walnut Hills High School. In 1903, after graduating, Bara began attended the University of Cincinnati. After two years of academia, however, Bara decided to leave college in pursuit of her passion: acting.

She remained in the Midwest for some time, taking whatever stage she get her hands on in hopes of improving her craft. In 1905 Bara packed her packed her bags and headed east for New York to find more opportunity. For next decade, Bara toiled in the New York theatre scene, traveling with stock theatre companies. She made her Broadway debut in 1908 with a small part in The Devil but would not return until her full-fledged stardom in 1920. She remained playing bit parts for off-Broadway production until 1914, when director Frank Powell cast in small role in the film The Stain. Powell was so taken with the young actress that he went on to cast as the lead in his next film The Fool There Was.

Film Career

In 1915 Bara starred in the silent drama A Fool There Was as The Vampire. The film tells of the story of a happily married diplomat who falls under the charms of gold-digging seductress, played by Bara. The film was tremendous hit. Bara rose to stardom seeming overnight, with audiences becoming fascinating by this new, exotic beauty. She was immediately cast as similarly gothic, femme fatales, furthering the image that would be come her legacy. She was frequently photographed with snakes, skulls, and other dark imagery, working to convey a darker version of sexuality - something the screen had never seen before. She then signed a five year contract with Fox Studios and became the studios biggest attraction.

 In 1917 she followed the industry and moved west to Hollywood. She was then cast in at that time one of the most extravagant Hollywood productions of that ear. Not only were the sets lavish and pristine but the costumes of Cleopatra as well. The film was both a controversy and a hit and although some critics complained that Bara outfits were too risky, audiences apparently did not agree. She remained Fox's biggest star, at one point making over 4,000 dollars a week. At the height of her career, her popularity trailed only behind Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, making her one of the World War One era's great stars. She remained at Fox Studios until 1919 working over 40 films including Romeo and Juliet, The Serpent, The Rose Blood, Madame Du Barry, The She Devil, The Siren's Song and LA belle Russe. Fearful of being type-cast, Bara left Fox after her contract expired. However, without the support of Fox behind her, Bara struggled in the industry. In 1921 she was cast in the The Prince f Silence but did not appear on the big screen again until 1925 with The Unchastened Woman. The Next year she appeared in her final film Madame Mystery before retiring from the film business.

Later Life

After leaving Hollywood, Bara traveled with her husband, director Charles Brabin, around the world. Bara also proved to an excellent hostess, often cooking lavish dinners for Hollywood society, making the Brabin household a favorite for many Hollywood stars for the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Although she never acted on screen again, making every single films she did silent, she did lend her voice for the radio. In 1936 she appeared on the radio series Lux Radio Theatre in a live broadcast of The Thin Man, starring along with the films leads William Powell and Myrna Loy. Bara remained active until she was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1950s.  Theda Bara died on April 7th, 1955 of stomach cancer In Los Angeles, California. She was 69 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).

HONORS and AWARDS:

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She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Bara was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1994. Bara was never nominated for an Academy Award.

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Theda Bara Facts
Studios went wild promoting Bara with a massive campaign, billing her as the Egyptian-born daughter of a French actress and an Italian sculptor. They claimed she had spent her early years in the Sahara Desert under the shadow of the sphinx, then moved to France to become a stage actress. The truth is that she never visited Egypt or France. They called her the "Serpent of the Nile" and encouraged Bara to discuss mysticism and the occult in interviews.

In the mid-to-late 1910s, she owned a large Tudor-style home at 649 West Adams Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. She sold the property to 'Roscoe Arbuckle' and Minta Durfee in 1918. It was eventually also the home of filmmaker couples Raoul Walsh and Miriam Cooper and Joseph M. Schenck and Norma Talmadge.

She married British-born director Charles Brabin in 1921. After her retirement, Theda expressed interest in possibly returning to the stage or screen, but her husband did not consider it proper for his wife to have a career. Bara spent the remainder of her life as a hostess in Hollywood and New York, in comfort and quite wealthy.

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