Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Picture Perfect Wednesday:
Theda Bara, the Original Goth Chick

During the late 1910s and early 1920s, Theda Bara emerged as a hugely popular movie star, specializing in playing evil and creepy women. Her film career began when she was 30, around the age when actresses were considered "too old" for anything but matronly parts, and she went onto star in numerous mega-hits that helped make Fox Studios into a Hollywood power-house. She retired from acting at the age of 41, after marrying director Charles Brabin. Her final film, "Madame Mystery" (1926), was co-directed by Stan Laurel.

Bara has the distinction of being the world's first fabricated off-screen personality. Her official bio from Fox Studios claimed that she was a life-long dabbler in the occult who had been born in he shadow of the Sphinx--the product of a torrid love affair between an artist and an Arabian princess. The truth was that she had been born in Cincinnati to a tailor and a housewife and that she had been a struggling actress on Broadway before getting her first big film break in the 1914 picture "A Fool There Was." Her real name was Theodosia Burr Goodman.

Bara, with her dark, entirely fabricated public image and her heavy, almost panda-like eye make-up, also has the distinction of being history's first Goth Chick.

Only two of Bara's films survive to present day--strangely enough her career bookends of "A Fool There Was" and "Madame Mystery." The original prints for the rest, including her celebrated starring turns in the smash-hit costume dramas "Cleopatra" and "Salome" were destroyed in a fire at Fox Studios in 1937. Bara's personal copies of her films all fell victim to her lack of knowledge regarding proper storage of nitrate-based film stock; she discovered to her sorrow in the 1940s when she checked her library that the passage of time had literally reduced her films to dust..

Theda Bara passed away at the age of 69, Although she has sunken into obscurity, she remains a source of inspiration for Goth Chicks, and was almost certainly the point of origin for the silent movie star turned evil undead cult leader in "The Dead Want Women."

Although I can't help but wonder if she wouldn't prefer to be remembered like this:

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