Kansas: The Rise And Fall Of Theda Bara

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In the 1910s, Theda Bara became the first Hollywood sex symbol in the silent film era, both a product of her on screen roles and the printed press. She revolutionized sexual film content through her character’s persona and attitude. Although she is a significant film star and made more than 40 silent films, she is overlooked because about 90% of her films were destroyed in a fire. While few of her films survive today, her public image and career as playing as a vampire and Cleopatra helped to develop the celebrity image and culture that stands a century later. As Ronald Genini’s Theda Bara: a Biography of the Silent Screen Vamp, with a Filmography and Eve Golden’s Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara serves as a biography with unknown secrets…show more content…
Most of her films portrayed sexuality and revealing outfits which caused several censorships. In Gerald Butters, Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, he discusses how the Kansas State Board of Review heavily censored Theda, because her type of vampire was not the type of woman people wanted their children to see on screen (108). Theda was an iconic representation that threatened traditional gender roles in Kansas’s society so they didn’t want to portray her (Butters, 109). The Better Films Committee of the Women’s Club of Omaha exploited the movie because her flesh exposure (Eve, 79). Her films had many issues with censorship so she had to file lawsuits about her pictures being refused. Female crowds were also testy about Theda’s image so they complained to the press about her acting imposing she set a ruthless example for young girls. During this time, spectators thought the characters actors played were the same person in real life, thus Theda became a victim of her own screen portrayal. When she was out in public, her encounters with viewers were not always pleasant. She was harassed and disrespected because she was known and imaged as “the vamp.” Women feared her for stealing their men from them. Sometimes she was even publically scolded and actually physically assaulted by wives and girlfriends. She was not only accused of stealing men but…show more content…
While she was not the first on screen vamp, she was the first to hit popularity from her sex appeal and her captivating persona. Theda’s films were more scandalous and she represented Hollywood’s sex symbol that Americans wanted at the time. She was the vampire desired by women because they could relate to her or wanted to watch something they weren’t. Overall her career set precedent for actors and actresses where particularly vampire actors and films would follow. Though her films aren’t here today, her image and success are still here a decade

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