Hollywood's first and most notorious Vixen, Theda Bara became synonymous with exoticism. She was alluring and unusual, a wide-eyed siren, a gold digger...and eternal Vamp. In fours years (1915 - 1919), Theda vamped her way through 39 films and millions of dollars for Fox Studios.
She was born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati, OH on July 29, 1890. She was a blonde haired girl born of a Jewish tailor and a Swiss mother. Upon graduating from high school she followed her dreams of becoming an actresses. She dyed her hair black, adopted exotic makeup and a wardrobe to match. Her first stage performance was of a cast member for Molnar's The Devil, which opened in New York City on August 18, 1908. She continued to play the stage and in 1914, on making her usual round of casting calls, she met up with Frank Powell, a new film director for William Fox. He was so impressed by her potential he immediately cast her in his film, The Stain, but she was so far way in the background as an extra she was not recognizable. Powell, pleased with her ability to take direction, convinced Fox to let her star in his next film, A Fool There Was.
A Fool There Was was a box office success, making Theda and instant star and paving a path for Fox's impressive new film company. Strings of vamp films would follow, although contrary to popular belief, she did not always play the wicked woman. Many of her roles featured her as a virtuous maiden, who had been wronged. At the height of her career in 1919, she was making films that cost $60,000 in production and she herself was earning over $4,000 dollars a week. However, the post WW1 culture backlashed on the very themes they embraced before going to war and this upheaval into self-righteousness did not fare well on Theda's films. With dwindling box office receipts and wanting to break out of her vampish role, she demanded a raise of $5000.00 a week. Fox, unwillingly to catch a falling star, dropped her contract. Over the course of the next few years, Theda returned to the stage, where critics panned her. She married Charles Brabin in 1921 and she returned to California, so that he could direct films and she could live in retirement. In the mid 20's she attempted two more comebacks with Unchastened Woman and Madame Mystery, but neither would return her glory of years past. She attempted several more stage comebacks in the thirties and even wrote a book called What Women Never Tell, a memoir of her professional experiences, which to this day remains unpublished.
Theda died of abdominal cancer on April 7, 1955 in California Lutheran Hospital.