Real-life vampires, according to vintage actress – and vamp – Theda Bara (1916)

Real-life vampires, according to vintage actress - and vamp - Theda Bara

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Apparently, “vampire” in this case refers less to the literal blood-suckers and more to the women — aka vamps or femmes fatale — who suck the life force from men.

“Vampire is branded on her heart,” says greatest vampire of the movies

by Theda Bara, written especially for The Day Book

What a strange procession they would make the vampires of history — the women whose destruction of men earned a place in the annals of the world’s growth, for better and for worse.

There are only three that seem to me to be vicious enough to have earned the title: Cleopatra, Lucrezia Borgia and Catherine of Russia. Thanks to Mr Kipling, we have had our vampires concretely visualized for us. He has made them things of rags, bones and hanks of hair, preferably black.

But Cleopatra wore cloth of gold; Lucrezia rich, silk velvets, and Catherine anything from leather hunting clothes to the crown jewels and a wisp of gauze. Not one of the three was thin; they were inclined to plumpness. And their “hanks of hair” were luxuriant and glossy.

theda bara cleopatra vamp

I am called the vampire of the screen. My rags are donned purposely, when a William Fox scenario calls for them; my bones are covered; and my hair is not a hank — I will not have it called so.

What, then, is the most vital characteristic of the vampire in real life? I will tell you what it is: Her eyes. I have seen vampire eyes in the face of an ingenue, and vampire eyes in the deeply-chiseled wrinkles of the grandmother. And it is my eyes, more than anything else in my personal appearance or character, that have blazoned me to the world as “the vampire of the screen.”

But what of the vampires who boasted of dimpled chins, roseleaf complexions and a complete vocabulary of baby talk?

What of DuBarry, Ninon de l’Enclos, Helen of Troy, Nell Gywn and a host of others, none of whom would present even a family resemblance to the tubercular heroine of Mr Kipling’s masterpiece?

Because DeBarry did not put cyanide in Louis’ bouillon, does not obliterate the fact that she put France on the verge of bankruptcy and massacred its laws.

That Helen of Troy did not pet snakes does not acquit her of the crime of bloody wars waged for her fatal charms.

I have known women, swarthy, sinuous, with tragic eyes and vivid lips — and the hearts of little children. I have known girls with rosebud mouths and limpid, violet eyes and the hearts of criminals.

We cannot group and ticket our vampires as we would our collections of picture postcards because they are branded on their hearts — not their faces.

Who, then, shall call me a vampire?

Vintage actresses - Shrine of the Vampire 1919

MORE: 8 rules of the vampire, according to Dracula (from 1901)

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  1. Pingback: Where the Links are: I’m a sucker for your lucky, pretty eyes | The Magpie Librarian: A Librarian's Guide to Modern Life and Etiquette

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