VAMP by Eve Golden


The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara
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 Golden, author of a well-received bio of Jean Harlow (Platinum Girl, 1991), inaugurates this new imprint with a trip even farther back into film history to examine the career of silent sex goddess Theda Bara. Bara made 41 films in the difficult transitional period between the rise of the motion picture as the handmade product of a cottage industry and the advent of factory-style moviemaking. Bara was, to her eternal regret, known for one thing and one thing only--she was the ``vampire'' woman who drove men to destruction. Although that label would make her one of the first great film stars (and, as Golden astutely observes, the first one who was largely created by publicity machinery), it dogged her whenever she attempted to break from the mold. Bara was born Theodosia Goodman, a nice Jewish girl from Cincinnati who had a yen to go on the stage. After some success in amateur theatricals, she dropped out of the University of Cincinnati to attempt a career on Broadway. She fell into movies almost by accident but soared to instant stardom in A Fool There Was. In order to capitalize on her dark, East European good looks, the Fox studio flacks refashioned her as a half-Egyptian, half-French femme fatale, complete with fake jewels, animal skins, and a hilariously elaborate pedigree. Golden retells this tale with obvious relish, and it is one that hasn't really been told before, as this is the first full-length bio of Bara. Regrettably, most of her films have not survived the nearly 80 years since their original release, so much of Golden's book is taken up with cautious recountings based on contemporary reviews. Worse, her prose is leaden and clichÇ-riddled. The author does make an effort to situate Bara in her historical context, but too often she settles for a superficial rehashing of film history commonplaces. (124 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-887322-00-0
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995