The Unchastened Woman (1925)
Very little fuss was made of Theda Bara’s return to melodrama in 1925. Scanning all the fan magazines I can find (Movie Classics, Photoplay, Screenland, etc.) there’s very little mention of it and only one, rather sniffy, review. This doesn’t seem to be so much because there was a lack of interest in Bara - searching for her name turns up the usual number of letters asking what her “right name” is and where to write to get a photo; and there was a certain amount of anticipation in there about Bara’s signing up to do two-reel comedies under Hal Roach. Presumably, then, it was the film itself, which may have seemed a little old-fashioned by 1925, and also the total lack of publicity effort on the part of the producers, Chadwick Pictures - there seem to be no posters or plugs or any ballyhoo whatsoever in any of the fan mags or in the trades, although Variety briefly mentions it in January of 1926 as a last-minute replacement for DW Griffith’s That Royle Girl in Portland, which had been abruptly banned.
Given that the film seems to have been sneaked out for public consumption with practically no fanfare, it seems a little ironic that it’s one of the handful of Theda Bara films that are still in existence, along with A Fool There Was (1915), East Lynne (1916), and a few others. Reviews like the one above (and the one for Cleopatra) do make me wonder if perhaps the 1937 fire that destroyed the bulk of her 40-odd films might have done her a favour, leaving her much more of an enigma than the many, many silent film starlets who disappeared entirely, some of them practically forgotten even before talkies came in.
More on Theda Bara’s lost film (one of many) Cleopatra (1917); both pieces from Photoplay magazine, October 1917.
Theda looks pretty cute with the dog.
Theda Bara in Cleopatra (1917), from which only a few seconds of footage survive. It was found a bit too saucy for the Chicago censor, the wonderfully named M.L.C. Funkhouser, who made some pretty severe cuts, as listed above. To be fair, it does sound a bit raw. The controversy, of course, only added to the film’s success, and it made a fortune, running until well into 1918 in a time when long runs didn’t really happen.
These articles are fascinating! Since Cleopatra is probably Theda’s best known lost work, they give us a great insight into the film itself.
By the sounds of it Theda was very proud of Cleopatra and I only wish more of it had survived!