Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

 

My friend Joan has finally written about her special relationship with Theda Bara. As movie patrons sat in darkened theaters in January 1914, they were mesmerized by an alluring temptress with long sable hair and kohl-rimmed eyes. Theda Bara-""the vamp,"" as she would come to be known-would soon be one of the highest paid film stars of the 1910s, earning an unheard of $4,000 dollars per week, before retiring from the screen in 1926. In 1946, at age five, the author met Bara-then 61-at her Beverly Hills home and the actress became her mentor. This memoir is the story of their friendship.

 

Joan Craig lives in Burbank, California. Her co-author is Beverly F. Stout lives in Greenwood, Mississippi, Their McFarland is expected in late spring of 2016. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

William Fox history told by Samuel Goldwyn

December 23, 2015

 

 

 

In Pictorial Review for May 1923, page 22 is “The Intimate Personal Story of the Motion – Picture Industry” by Samuel Goldwyn in part he wrote.

“While the Lasky Company and the Famous Players organization were taking their long and often completive strides forward numerous other motion-picture enterprises had been command into prominence.  Among these was the Fox Company.

 

Some years ago William Fox bought the story, “A Fool There Was.”  For its leading role he engages a very prominent actress.  She disappointed him at the last moment, and it was while he was at his wit’s end to know how to replace her that he happened to go one day into his casting department.  There were several extras standing around in the hope of picking up a day’s work, and among these Fox’s eye fell upon a dark-eyed girl.  He looked at her.  He looked again.  Finally he said to his casting director; “I wish you’d have some tests made of that girl.  It seems to me she’s got possibilities.”

 

The tests were made.  They were so satisfactory that the girl was cast for the leading role of “A Fool There Was.”  In it she scored such a triumph that Fox bought immediately more similar vehicles for her.  The girl’s name was THEDA BARA, and “A Fool There Was” was the first of the vamp stories which for some time seemed to consume the movie-picture industry”….   

UPDATED DEC 23 2015

Thera Bara

Joan Craig Birdsall has written her book! it should be out in the Spring of 2016....I'll add more information as I get it!

 

 

Found this post by Phillip Dye at “Lost Film Cleopatra”  ( Jan 2, 2016 )

 

Theodosia Burr Goodman in March, 1912. At this point in her life, she is a struggling actress living in New York, looking for work under the stage name Theodosia de Coppet. She was reluctant to enter the motion picture industry, since it wasn't 'legitimate Theatre'. A little over two years later, she was cast as the femme fatale 'Vampire' in the Fox film production of 'A Fool There Was' (released January 1915), renamed 'Theda Bara' and a huge publicity campaign created around her with a fictitious biography claiming she was the daughter of a French artist and an Arab princess, 'born in the shadow of the Sphinx.' By the end of 1915, she was one of the top box office movie stars in America-- all very distant to the dreamy eyed woman shown here.

 

 

 

 

A Fool There Was

with

The Woman With The Hungry Eyes

by

Marilyn Slater

“Looking for Mabel”

August 19, 2010

 

Last night was a long and dramatic one. The Silent Movie on Fairfax was schedule at 8pm but before the short walk up the street a few fans of Theodosia Burr Goodman’s met at 6pm at Canter’s Deli.  This was a terrific and informative discussion, with a friend of Theda Bara by the name of Joan Craig-Birdsall, “Little Red.”  Around the table we sat in rapt attention as she explained how when she as a little girl, she came to know “Uncle Charlie” (the director, Charles J. Brabin) and the woman who shared a sense of playful understanding and a real psychic connection with her (his wife, the extraordinary Theda Bara). 

 

“Little Red” needs to write a book, she saw many of the lost Theda Bara features, and including “Cleopatra” she told us of going with Theda to the sites where the battle of Actium was filmed.  There was a trip to the UK with Theda and “Uncle Charlie” and Joan’s family, where Theda hurt herself kissing the Blarney Stone and they preformed for the “ghost”.  The puppet shows, the reading of Shakespeare, and the parties; “Little Red” learned the way to sit and hold her hands as only Theda did. 

 

At the Silent Movie Theatre, the distinguished and amazing Hugh M. Neely introduced the full house to the evening’s feature. “A Fool There Was” (Fox 1915) one of the few Theda Bara, Fox features that is known to have survived the Fox Studio fire.  He told us a few facts and there was a promise of more after the 86 minutes of Vamping and if we were very good and behaved ourselves he would introduce Joan Craig-Birdsall and show us his glorious 100 minutes documentary “The Woman With The Hungry Eyes.”

 

Theda Bara first starring role was in “A Fool There Was”, and was initially thought a vehicle for Edward Jose but the screen was over powered by the sheer sex appeal of the female Vampire.  She not only seduced the hero but the entire audience.   I have a feeling that every man that saw the Vampire, deep in the dark corner where he holds his secret  sexual desire wished she had hissed “Kiss me, my fool” into his soul.

 

When the film was first shown the population was probably more familiar with the Rudyard Kipling poem “The Vampire” than we are today.  In 1915 the full poem was read to the audience before the film was shown.  Kipling poem was based on the painting by Philip Burne Jones from 1897, a play, “The Vampire” was based on the Kipling poem which was turned into the film by Frank Powell.

 

After Theda had seduced the entire audenace last night, Joan Craig-Birdsall continued the lovely stories of her relationship with this kind neighborhood couple and than we saw “The Woman With The Hungry Eyes.”  This was the second time I had been lucky enough to look into the “Eyes” WoW!.  What a very good documentary it is.  It needs, to be seen if you have the opportunity perhaps even a release of a DVD set, which was discussed a couple of years ago.  There on screen were Robert Birchard, Joe Yranski, and biographers Eve Golden and Ron Genini all looking great and sounding so erudite. 

 

The Vampire
Rudyard Kipling

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)

Oh the years we waste and the tears we waste
And the work of our head and hand,
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand.

A fool there was and his goods he spent
(Even as you and I!)
Honor and faith and a sure intent
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(And it wasn't the least what the lady meant),
(Even as you and I!)

Oh the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned,
Belong to the woman who didn't know why
(And now we know she never knew why)
And did not understand.

The fool we stripped to his foolish hide
(Even as you and I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside--
(But it isn't on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died--
(Even as you and I!)

And it isn't the shame and it isn't the blame
That stings like a white hot brand.

It's coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing at last she could never know why)
And never could understand.



 

(It is worth mentioning that the color posters for "A Fool There Was" were from the remake with Estelle Taylor, rather than first film with Theda Bara.  but they were bright and big and I liked them...) 


Patrica Nolan Stein has written an article on Theda Bara http://looking-for-mabel.webs.com/thedabaranolanstein.htm