Classic Movie Hub (CMH)


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Theda Bara

Theda Bara

Almost all of her forty films have been lost (only three survive, as well as a handful of fragments as of 2009), giving her perhaps the highest percentage of lost work for somebody with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Although she made more than 40 feature films between 1914 and 1926, complete prints of only six of these films are left in existence.

Announced during a LUX Radio Theatre in 1936 that she was planning to return to films and was in the process of finding the right script.

As a marketing ploy for Cleopatra (1917) Bara claimed to have the same astrological sign as the real Cleopatra. That is incorrect, as Cleopatra was a Capricorn and Bara was a Leo.

For a time, she became a victim of her own screen image. Making movies at a time when audiences thought that the character that the actor played was the person that they were in real life she often found herself ostracized publicly. Late in her career she would tell stories of being refused service in restaurants and one nurse's refusal to admit her husband into the hospital after an accident because the woman thought that she had caused it. Many of these stories were greatly exaggerated (mostly by Bara herself) but she told them to establish the kind of perception that she had given the public.



Her mother, Pauline DeCoppett (1861-1957), born in Switzerland and was also Jewish, outlived daughter Theda by two years.

Her screen persona was an exotic foreign beauty who was the ultimate "vamp" who would go through men like a shark. In reality, she was born in Ohio. Those who knew her claimed that she was a quiet, reserved woman that would be more likely found in a bookstore rather than a Hollywood nightclub. In the early 1920s, she married director Charles Brabin. This marriage lasted until her death despite allegations that Brabin had cheated on her (by Frederica Sagor Maas).

Hoping to break out of her vamp typecast Bara made the film "Kathleen Mavourneen" in a Mary Pickford styled role. The film flopped and mutually tired of each other she and FOX both agreed not to renew her contract. After leaving Fox in 1919 she made only one feature The Unchastened Woman (1925). She retired in 1926 after making only one more film, the short comedy, Madame Mystery (1926).

In 1930, she lived at 632 N. Alpine Drive in Beverly Hills.

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.

Is reported that Neil Gaiman took inspiration on her, for the character of 'Deatj' in the Sandman Comics.

Later in life Bara hoped to make a film about her career with a neighborhood child she treated as her own. However the film never came to be as her health took a turn for the worst and she passed on soon after.

Most of her films were unfortunately lost to a fire at Fox Studios in 1937. Bara had her own personal archive but did not realize they had disintegrated until she took some films out to show a child friend who she hoped to play herself in a film in the 1940s.

Only a few seconds of her most famous film, "Cleopatra" still survive. It was last seen in 1934 when Cecil B DeMille viewed it for his own remake.

Pictured on one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Charles Chaplin, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.

Promotional claims fed off the fact that her stage name was chosen because it is an anagram for "Arab Death." In reality, "Theda" was a childhood nickname for Theodosia, and "Bara" was a shortened form of her maternal grandfather's last name, Baranger.

Screen and stage actress.

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.

She was the first to utter the now famous but often misquoted line, "Kiss me, my fool."

Sister of actress/writer Lori Bara.

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