Theda Bara was the stage name of Theodosia Burr Goodman (July 29, 1885 - 7 April 1955), a silent film actress. It was claimed that her name was an anagram for "Arab Death". In fact, Theda is short for Theodosia, and Bara was the middle name of her maternal grandmother.
Bara was one of the most popular screen actresses of the time. She was nicknamed "The Vamp", short for vampire, slang for a sexy predatory woman at the time.
Named for the daughter of American politician Aaron Burr, Theodosia Burr Goodman was born in Avondale, Ohio, a wealthy suburb of Cincinnati, a daughter of a Swiss mother and a Jewish tailor father, and though she achieved fame as a raven-haired vamp, she was actually born blonde. She attended Walnut Hills High School in 1899-1903 and lived at 823 Hutchins Avenue. After attending the University of Cincinnati for two years, she worked in theater productions, moving to New York City in 1908.
Briefly known professionally as Theodosia de Coppett, Theda Bara made more than 40 feature films between 1914 and 1926 of which complete prints of only three still exist. She made her Broadway debut in "The Devil" (1908), and her film debut was a bit part in "The Stain" (1914), directed by Frank Powell for Pathé Frères.
Bara was a sex symbol of the era, and in a number of her films appeared in risqué transparent costumes that left little to the imagination. Such outfits were banned from Hollywood films after the Hays Code went into effect a few years later, which may have been a factor in declining interest in her films, which could no longer be commercially shown in the United States.
Theda Bara retired in 1926, five years after marrying British-born American film director Charles Brabin (1883-1957), and though she attempted several comebacks, she spent the remainder of her life as a prominent hostess in Hollywood and her native Cincinnati. She died of cancer in Los Angeles, California and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.