Theodosia Burr Goodman, better known as Theda Bara, was born this day in 1885. She was one of the cinema’s earliest sex symbols, rising to fame with her femme fatale screen persona for whom the term “Vamp” was coined. Her publicists invented countless wild stories about her life; for example, the ‘fact’ that Theda was born to Egyptian royalty under the shadow of the pyramids. In reality she was born to a Jewish family in Ohio. In contrast to her public image, Theda was a modest woman who liked nothing better than to curl up at home with a good book.
Another [legend] concerned a woman who kicked a hole in a poster of Theda outside a theater, happily paying ten dollars for the damage, claiming, “it was worth it!” Wacky fan (and non-fan) letters were invented for the public’s entertainment. One was from an Oriental gentleman requesting a photo of the ‘honorable Theda’ as ‘honorably naked as possible.’
~ from “Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara” by Eve Golden
Though she acted in 43 films, only six are still in existence, making her the star with the highest percentage of lost films of anyone on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.