Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Theda Bara.....The Vamp

Theda Bara aka "The Vamp"
of the Silent Film Era

Theda was born Theodosia Burr Goodman in Cincinnati in 1885, to a prominent Jewish tailor. She went into the pictures with the intention of being known as a conventional romantic heroine in the silent film era. Unfortunately, her attempt at a 'sweetness and light' role in 'Kathleen Mauvorneen' in 1919 was a complete flop. Hollywood had already manufactured her in the image of "the Vamp" and this could not be undone.

She became Theda Bara, which is an anagram for 'Arab Death'. She was rumored to be the daughter of a French painter and his Egyptian mistress. Don't you just love historical 'spin'? She portrayed an often wicked 'siren' in nearly 40 films, her first in 1915 in "A Fool There Was", which was an adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling novel, "The Vampire". This role sealed her fate in Hollywood. Theodosia Goodman would forever be known as "The Vamp".

I made Theda Bara for an IOLCC (Imitation of Life Construction Company) Dimensions in Dollmaking show. This is an annual international show in San Diego, and a fabulous honor to be involved in.

I made Theda a full body sculpt in Paperclay with a wire skeleton. For the first time, I had to make a 'bottom', breasts, stomach, thighs, ankles, etc. I was going for her most famous image of The Vamp and knew that her clothing would cling so I'd better try real hard to get the body semi-human in scale. Nothing I wrapped her in seemed to fit right, then I settled on the idea of using an antique mantilla I had. I draped this on and liked it, but then there was the problem of certain things showing through the lace. So I began to bead the mantilla in strategic places. You could still see through a bit so I decided rather than paint her in a 'smooth' fashion, she'd get some real parts. Just to make it look more real.

I was going to use black mohair but worried that since it was supposed to stay pulled up in her hands, that it wouldn't remain that way in transit and setting up for the show. So I decided on a beaded headdress, thinking that would be safer and EASIER. What a dummy I was. I hand strung about a bazillion strands of glass bugle beads for 'hair'. A total pain, but I do like how the headdress turned out over all.

After going through more photos of Theda, I found one where she's pretty much draped in lace and it's beaded in all the right spots. This made me feel better about my choice in deviating from the original image of her as The Vamp.

As it's another cold, gray day unworthy of taking better photos of my Hope doll, I thought I'd drag Theda out of the old photo cupboard to share with everyone. And she's still wondering where the hell her bloody little finger crawled off to.


  1. She is absolutely stunning! You have captured a perfect likeness of Theda
    Bara! The costume and headdres are also perfect! Just awesome!

  2. She is absolutely wonderful. Once again speechless by your wonderful talent. Julie

  3. Wow! Theda is just awsome! You did a fabulous job on her! Love that headdress, I can't imagine doing all the beading!
    happy Hauntings, Gail

  4. I just discovered your art through my friend Susie McMahon, and I'm in love! Gorgeous work. I just finshed my first paperclay full body sculpture, and had a ball! I love the stuff! I will be exploring your blog. Look forward to seeing more! I added a link from my blog to yours. Hope you don't mind. ;o)