Gary Hammond challenged you to find a direct link between American silent film star and stage actress Theda Bara (1885-1955) and the Long Island Motor Parkway.
Mystery Foto question:
- What role did the Motor Parkway play in the career of Theda Bara, one of the most popular film stars of her era? Hint: Billed under the name Theodosia De Coppet, Theda Bara made her film debut as an extra in 1914.
Theda Bara (1885- 1955) made her film debut at the age of 29 in The Stain in 1914 as an extra. The film was shot in New Jersey and at Petit Trianon, located at the eastern terminus of the Motor Parkway in Lake Ronkonkoma. Her look and amazing eyes caught the attention of director Frank Powell who cast her as the lead in his next film A Fool There Was, which became a major hit.
From the book: A Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture by Terry Tamsaye:
The direction of A Fool There Was fell to Frank Powell, a graduate of Biograph. Powell had recently completed The Stain, written by Forrest Halsey, for Pathe.
While Powell was making the Stain on Miss Theodosia Goodman, of some stage experience under the name of De Coppet, applied for the part. Powell was impressed. The next day he took her with the company to work in exteriors at the Pettit Trianon, Lake Ronkonoma, New York. Powell pondered deeply. He put her into the background away from the camera. He did not want her recognized and classified as a mere extra.
When the casting of A Fool There Was began...., Powell demurred and presented the unknown Miss De Coppet. He evolved for her the name Theda Bara under which she was to attain world fame, "Theda" being an obviouse contraction of Theodosia, while "Bara" was derived from a relative's name of Barringer.
A Fool There Was became a box office hit of January 1915. Theda Bara was made famous overnight. This success, true to rule, ordained a career of vampiring for the demure and circumspect Miss Goodman.
Congrats and kudos to Dick Gorman, Tim Ivers, Greg O., Sam Berliner III, Steve Lucas, and Art Kleiner (see Kleiner's Korner) for correctly identifying thelink between Theda Bara and the Long Island Motor Parkway.
Theda Bara in the 1917 film Cleopatra + Interview
Theda Bara in the 1917 film Cleopatra and an Interview
The Stain (1914)
There are only two known existing prints of The Stain, one in Australia and one in the George Eastman Museum in Rochester.
I have requested the Moving Image Department of the museum to provide still photos of Petit Trianon that were used in the film. I am hoping they will also provide a film clip.
Theda Bara, billed as Theodosia De Coppet, had a very brief role as a nun.
A Fool There Was (1915)
After her role in The Stain, the renamed Theda Bara became a star as a vamp "who uses her charms to seduce and corrupt a moral married Wall Street lawyer." Theda Bara can be seen as her most scandalous at 56:48 .
Kleiner's Korner (Submitted by Art Kleiner)
The Bible on Silent Film, 2013