A Year in Books/Day 70: Vamp The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara

  • Title: Vamp The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara
  • Author: Eve Golden
  • Year Published: 1996 (Emprise Publishing, Inc.)
  • Year Published: 1996/1997
  • Source: A book club (I cannot remember which one)
  • About: Written forty years after Bara’s death, ‘Vamp’ was the first biography of film’s original bad girl superstar (who, incidentally, played her fair share of classic and/or good girl roles). It’s a well-balanced account of how publicity turned the comfortably middle class Ohioan into a seething, exotic sexpot. The manufactured stories about Goodman are truly a hoot! It also gives substance to the fact that Theda was actually a talented actress, something that has largely been lost to time and under the weight of her outlandish get-ups and the often naive or contrived plots of her films. Although her career proper lasted barely five years, it is rather melodramatic to call the natural slowing down of her fame a ‘fall’; considering the truly tragic fates that ensnared many of her contemporaries, her slide into prosperous and happy anonymity comes off as a blessing.
  • Motivation: I’m a silent movie junkie, as you well know by now. I’ve always had a fondness for the big-eyed Buckeye Vamp (psst, here’s a little secret: if we have a daughter, we plan on naming her Theda). Like Theda, I’m an Ohioan (albeit one from two hours North). I bought this book a full ten years before moving South to her hometown. Oddly enough, I live just a few minutes from the neighborhood she called home for her first twenty years!
  • Times Read: 2
  • Random Excerpt/Page 47: “At least her ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ reviews provided some good news: it was a big hit, mostly due to curiosity about Theda. “Startling and remarkable,” according to one reviewer; another said of Theda and O’Neil, “their acting is splendidly realistic and emotionally powerful.” Being favorably compared to a stage diva like Nance O’Neil must have given Theda strength to continue filming.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10
    A photograph of Theda Bara.

    Ohio's Theda Bara-Image via Wikipedia