The Vamp: Theda Bara, Cinema’s First Sex Symbol – Halloween Special – Women’s History, American History

In the early 20th century, the word “vampire” was used to mean something quite different: a female sexual predator. And no one struck more fear into the hearts of men than cinema’s first sex symbol, silent film actress Theda Bara. Happy Halloween.

Featuring piano music by Kevin MacLeod, used by Creative Commons License Attribution 3.0.

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Time/place: America, 1897 – c. 1926 CE

Dead Idea: “Vampire” as Female Sexual Predator

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The Vampire

By Rudyard Kipling, 1897

A fool there was and he made his prayer

(Even as you or 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 or 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 or I!)

Honour and faith and a sure intent

(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant),

But a fool must follow his natural bent

(Even as you or 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 that she never knew why)

And did not understand!

The fool was stripped to his foolish hide,

(Even as you or 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 or 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!

 

The Vampire (From a woman’s point of view. With apologies to Rudyard Kipling.)

By Mary C. Low, 1899

A woman there was who heard’a prayer,

(Even as you and I!)

From flesh and bones and a lock of hair

(He called her the woman beyond coiflpare),

But he only used her to lighten his care,

(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the walks we had and the talks we had.

And the best of our heart and hand.

Were sought by the man who pretended to care,

He didn’t—but why he pretended to care.

We cannot understand.

A woman received the flowers he sent,

(Even as you and I)

Honour and faith she thought his intent,

(But God only knows what the gentleman meant).

Yet a man must follow his natural bent,

(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the vows we spoke and the vows we broke.

And the various things we planned.

Belong to the man who said he was true,

(But now we know that he never was true)

And we cannot understand.

One favour she asked—but it was denied,

(Even as you and I!)

In some way or other he might have replied,

(But it isn’t on record the gentleman tried).

Her faith in him faltered and finally 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.

I t ‘ s coming to know he would never say why.

Seeing at last she could never know why.

And never could understand.

 

Main Sources

Bara. T. (1919, Jun.). “How I Became a Film Vampire.” The Forum: 715-727. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2018, from: http://www.unz.com/print/Forum-1919jun-00715/

Bara, T. (1919, Jul.). “The Curse on the Moving-Picture Actress.” The Forum: 83-93. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2018, from: http://www.unz.com/print/Forum-1919jul-00083/

Kipling, R. (1897). “The Vampire.” Pamphlet.

Low, M. (1899, Mar.). “The Vampire: From a Woman’s Point of View, With Apologies to Rudyard Kipling.” The Bookman: 61. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2018, from: http://www.unz.com/print/Bookman-1899mar-00061/

MacLeod, K. (2014). “Silent Film Score Compilation – Old Times.” Youtube.com. Licensed under Creative Commons By Attribution 3.0 License. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2018, from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ-Su4utvm8

“Vampire.” (2018). Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2018, from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vampire

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