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1930s & Earlier / Theda Bara - Forgotten Movie Star
Theda Bara is a largely forgotten movie star for two reasons: Her career ended in 1926 so she did not make a single sound film, and most of her 40 feature films were lost in a 1937 studio vault fire. Although she was born in Cincinnati in 1885, studio publicists tried to make her ancestry more exotic than it really was. At one point Bara was listed as being born in a Middle Eastern desert to French and Arabian parents. Bara's faux first name was either a childhood nickname or an anagram of the word 'death'--depending on which fan magazine you read. Her birth name was Theodosia Burr Goodman. Be that as it may, Bara became very famous for her portrayal of Cleopatra in a 1917 feature film. She wore a risque costume and described herself as a 'vamp'--an abbreviation of the word vampire. Only a few seconds of her breakthrough performance survives. She declared she would continue playing vamps 'as long as people sin.' After getting married in 1921, Bara only made two more films before retiring five years later. She died of stomach cancer in 1955 at age 69. Only four of her films are known to exist.