Hollywood has always loved a beautiful woman and there have been MANY stunning women who have illuminated cinema goers for over a century. But who was the very first screen siren?
Well that honour goes to Theda Bara (her name is an anagram of Arab Death), in her, was an exotic femme fatale who could drive men to insanity and even death. The famous tale spun by the Studio was that she was born to an Arab Sheik, a French woman and was born in the Sahara, nicknamed ‘the Serpent of the Nile’ This creates a fabulous backstory, pity that none of it is true.
She was actually in Cincinnati, Ohio as Theodesia Burr Goodman, although the press agents were not to allow a little thing like the truth spoil a good fable! She was responsible for inspiring the term ‘vamp’, short for vampire and has become a gothic icon thanks to her poses with skeletons and crows etc. She was encouraged to play up to her mystical image by talking about the occult. As you can imagine, Bara was type casted as vixens; playing Cleopatra in 1917 was one of her biggest hits. Although Bara took her craft seriously and tried to play other roles. At her height she was one off the biggest stars assuring the silent era, only surpassed by Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin.
Tragically most of her films have been lost, of the forty films she had made only six survived.