Theda Bara was one of the most popular silent era actresses between 1914 and 1926. She made over 40 films, but most were lost in a fire during 1937. One of the most popular films, Cleopatra, became one of Bara’s biggest hits. No known prints of Cleopatra exist today, but numerous photographs of Bara in costume have survived.
Bara is often cited as one of the first sex symbols. As actresses were largely responsible for their own costumes and make-up at that time, she invented her own look. She was well known for wearing very revealing costumes in her films. Such outfits were banned from Hollywood films after the Production Code started in 1930,
In promoting the 1917 film Cleopatra, Fox Studio publicists noted that Theda Bara was an anagram of Arab death, and her press agents claimed inaccurately that she was “the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara.” In 1917 the Goodman family legally changed its surname to Bara.
She was the first to utter the now famous but often misquoted line, “Kiss me, my fool.” Theda never appeared in a sound film. She died of stomach cancer at the age of 69.