Theda Bara - Thursday, June 25, 2015

Remember that framed montage we showed you last Friday, which included images of some of the silent film era's greatest actors, including Frank Merrill, Nita Naldi, Mary Fuller and Wallace Reid?  Well, we're not done yet.  In fact, there are eight images in the montage and today we are officially at number five:  Theda Bara.  

Born Theodosia Burr Goodman in 1885, the Cincinnati native was born into means to a Jewish tailor and a Swiss matron.  Acting was in her nature, and she performed from an early age, moving to New York to be on Broadway, she became an early sex symbol in film - in silent film. Between 1915 and 1919, Bara became the biggest star for Fox Studios as a 'vamp' - a femme fatale who broke the hearts of men both onscreen and in the seats of the theaters.  Compared to many of the other stars we've talked about in the blog, she lived to a ripe old age - 69 - before stomach cancer caused her death in 1955.  But her star had fallen long before that.  After leaving Fox in 1919, she starred in very few films, occasionally parodying her earlier image.  Now, she is barely a cinematic memory.  A 1937 fire in the Fox vaults destroyed all but four of her movies.
QUESTION:  Approximately twenty seconds of Theda Bara's 'greatest' film, from 1917, remain in existence.  Elizabeth Taylor would remake it in 1963.  What was it called?
A)  A Place In the Sun
B)  Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
C)  Father of the Bride
D)  Cleopatra

BAD DAY IN FRANCE.  Not directly American history, per se, but it definitely impacted the people of the United States when, on this day in 1940, France officially surrendered to Nazi Germany in the early days of World War II.  No one really expected this to happen, let alone as quickly as it did.  It effectively left Great Britain to fight alone, until the Nazis made a few really bad decisions.  Like invading the Soviet Union and declaring war on the United States.

YOU'RE SO VAIN.  Turning 70 today, Carly Simon has been in the public eye for over forty years.  She has a long list of well-known songs to her credit, including "Anticipation" (best known to some generations as the theme song for a brand of ketchup), "You're So Vain" (but the song IS about them, you see.  Oh, never mind.), "Mockingbird," and the theme song from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, "Nobody Does It Better."  She's still performing and going strong.  Take a break today, Carly, and enjoy your big day!

QUOTE:  A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars. - Carly Simon

ANSWER:  D)  Cleopatra.  Bara's version of it was considered so racy that repeat viewings of it were forbidden after the Hays Code was implemented in the early 1930's, before that fire destroyed the surviving prints of it.