The 1916 William Fox production of East Lynne starring Theda Bara lives! A wonderful super rare movie poster survives after almost a century, and we bring it to you. In its muted and rich grey, green, and blue tones this image of the pioneering star is truly haunting. Absolutely lovely. We are thrilled to have the only example we have found of this beauty and wonder if another one exists.
At 78″ x 40″ it’s an absolute knockout.
Theda Bara and her mesmerizing kohl-rimmed eyes, barely-there costumes and exotic ways became the first sex symbol of the silver screen. She is the original “vamp”.
She was born Theodosia Goodman in Avondale, Ohio, on July 29, 1885. She spent most of her uneventful childhood reading. She became obsessed with acting as a teenager, and participated in her school drama club. After high school, Theodosia attended the University of Cincinnati. Two years later, she dropped out and moved to New York to pursue a career on the stage.
Theodosia’s luck changed when she met film director Frank Powell. He invited her to play an extra in a crowd scene for “The Stain”(1914). He had her in mind for his next Fox Studios production. Once she had shown she could take direction, Powell offered her the lead in “A Fool There Was”(1915). She was signed to a five-year contract and given a new name: “Theda”, a childhood nickname and “Bara”, from the family name Baranger.
Eager to capitalize on its new star, Fox rushed Theda through “The Kreutzer Sonata” and “The Clemenceau Case” (both 1915), two more vamp successes. Contrary to common belief, she also played non-vamp roles, including “The Two Orphans”(1915), “East Lynne”(1916) and “Under Two Flags”(1916). She was even successful as a heroine, but Fox barely promoted these films. She was more lucrative as a vamp.
Future audiences will probably never be able to see the best of Theda Bara. Stills from her sets are the only substantial remaining visual record of her career. These, and the remaining movies, offer a tantalizing glimpse of the quiet woman who shocked and delighted post-Victorian audiences and whose image is still a familiar part of our culture today.
Thanks to Kendahl Cruver for wonderful account of Theda Bara’s life.