Bebe Daniels as ‘Zaida’ “In She’s a Sheik” (1927)

She’s a Sheik is a 1927 silent film comedy adventure produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film is possibly lost.

Bebe Daniels stars as Zaida the daughter of a desert chief who kidnaps a member of the French Foreign Legion in the hopes of wooing him.

The comedy pokes fun at the Valentino ‘sheik’ films with the exception that a woman, played by Bebe Daniels, is the protagonist.

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 Bebe Daniels as ‘Zaida’, 1927

Bebe Daniels for SHE'S A SHEIK (Clarence G. Badger, 1927)

 Bebe Daniels as ‘Zaida’, 1927

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Ad for She’s a Sheik

Gloria Swanson in “Male and Female” by Arthur F. Kales (1919)

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Arthur F. Kales, Gloria Swanson in “Male and Female” directed by Cecil B. DeMille, 1919 via

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Arthur F. Kales, Gloria Swanson in “Male and Female” directed by Cecil B. DeMille, 1919 via

Theda Bara in Lavish Silent Picture “Cleopatra” (1917)

Cleopatra was a 1917 American silent historical drama film which is considered lost, as no known complete negatives or prints of it survive. It starred Theda Bara, the screen’s first sex symbol, as Cleopatra. Only Brief fragments of footage from the film are known to exist today. After the Hays Code was implemented in Hollywood, Cleopatra was judged too obscene to be shown. The last two prints known to exist were destroyed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and unfortunately in the fires at the Fox studios in 1937 along with the majority of Theda Bara’s other films for Fox (Bara made over 40 films, sadly only 2 complete features are known to exist).

Cleopatra was one of the most elaborate Hollywood films ever produced up to that time, with particularly lavish sets and costumes. According to the studio, the film cost $500,000 (approximately $8.3 million in 2009) to make and employed 2,000 people behind the scenes. The film was based on H. Rider Haggard’s 1889 novel Cleopatra and the plays Cleopatre by Émile Moreau and Victorien Sardou and William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The story told was about the epic romances between Cleopatra and the greatest men of Rome, Julius Caesar and Antony.

 Theda Bara

Between 1915 and 1919, Bara was Fox studio’s biggest star and Cleopatra became one of Bara’s biggest hits. In promoting the film Fox Studio publicists noted that the name Theda Bara was an anagram of Arab death, and her press agents claimed inaccurately that she was “the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara. It was popular at that time to promote an actress as mysterious, with an exotic background. The studio even called her the Serpent of the Nile and encouraged Bara to discuss mysticism and the occult in interviews. This is perhaps why Bara claimed to have the same astrological sign as the real Cleopatra as a marketing ploy for the film. In reality Cleopatra was a Capricorn and Bara was a Leo. Even though no known prints of Cleopatra exist today, numerous photographs of Bara in costume have survived.

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

Surviving Fragments of Cleopatra

 

Vintage Photos of Femme Fatales of Silent-Cinema

A Femme Fatale is a French phrase for “fatal woman”. She is the archetype found in literature and art as a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.

One traditionional view portrays the femme fatale as a sexual vampire; her charms leach the virility and independence of lovers, leaving them shells of themselves.

From the American film-audience perspective, the femme fatale often appeared foreign, usually either of indeterminate Eastern European or Asian ancestry. She was the sexual counterpart to wholesome actresses such as Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford.

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Theda Bara, 1915 via

Theda Bara (1885–1955) was one of the most popular actresses of the silent era, and one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols. According to the studio biography her name was an anagram of “Arab Death”, and she was born in the Sahara to a French artiste and his Egyptian concubine and possessed supernatural powers. In fact, her father was a Cincinnati tailor. The film that made Bara a star was A Fool There Was (1915). The film took it´s title from the popular Rudyard Kipling poem “The Vampire” – the poem was even used in the publicity for the film. Kipling had taken inspiration from a vampire painted by Philip Burne-Jones, to write his poem. The poems refrain: “A fool there was…”, describes a seduced man. So, in the American slang of the era, a femme fatale is a vamp, short for vampire.  And the femme fatale roles earned Bara that nickname  – The Vamp.

Louise Glaum via

American actress Louise Glaum  (September 4, 1888 – November 25, 1970)  was called “The Spider Woman” or “The Tiger Woman” as one of silent screen’s most infamous and exotic vamps. She was credited with giving one of the best characterizations in her early career. Her first role as a “vamp,” was as Mademoiselle Poppea in The Toast of Death (1915).

Valeska Suratt via

Valeska Suratt (June 28, 1882 – July 2, 1962)  was dubbed “The Vampire Woman” on the silent screen. In 1915  Suratt signed with Fox. and like fellow Fox contract players Theda Bara and Virginia Pearson, Suratt was marketed as a “vamp” and was cast as seductive and exotic characters. During her years on the stage, Valeska was noted for the high fashion clothes she wore on stage. She was sometimes called the “Empress of Fashions”. She began on film after being noticed by producer Edward Edelston as she was walking down a hotel staircase one evening wearing a provocative backless gown. Her name became synonymous worldwide for lavish gowns. In the late 1920s her fame waned and she quickly disappeared from public view, never to return.

Musidora via

Jeanne Roques (23 February 1889 – 11 December 1957), better known by her stage name Musidora, was a French actress chiefly famous for her work under the direction of Louis Feuillade: the serials Les Vampires as Irma Vep (an anagram of “vampire”) and in Judex as Marie Verdier.  Les Vampires was not actually about vampires, but about a criminal gang-cum-secret society inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang. Her vamp persona has been compared with that of Theda Bara. Her mystique was accentuated by large, dark eyes and a habit of wearing a black leotard, hood and tights while on the set. After she retired from acting, she became a journalist and a writer on cinema.

Pola Negri via

Pola Negri (January 3, 1894  – 1 August 1987) was a Polish stage and film actress who achieved worldwide fame during the silent and golden eras of Hollywood and European film for her tragedienne and femme fatale roles. She was the first European film star to be invited to Hollywood, and become one of the most popular actresses in American silent film. She also started several important women’s fashion trends that are still staples of the women’s fashion industry. Her varied career included work as an actress in theater and vaudeville; as a singer and recording artist; as an author; and as a ballerina.However,  three things conspired to end her career in Hollywood. The display that she put on at the funeral of Valentino in 1926, changed the public mood towards her. The Hays Office codes which would not allow filming the very traits that made her a sex-siren European star. And finally, her thick accent would not play in the sound pictures that were coming into vogue.

Myrna Loy via

Myrna Loy (August 2, 1905 – December 14, 1993) trained as a dancer and started her career at the end of the silent era. She was originally typecast in exotic roles, often as a Theda Bara-like femme fatale  or a woman of Asian descent. Fortunately, she was rescued by the advent of the sound picture, where she was recast in the role of the witty, urbane, professional woman. She is best remembered for her role of Nora Charles opposite William Powell in six “Thin Man” movies.

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Jetta Goudal via

Jetta Goudal (July 12, 1891 – January 14, 1985) left World War I era devastated Europe in 1918 to settle in New York City, where she hid her Dutch Jewish ancestry, generally describing herself as a “Parisienne” and on an information sheet for the Paramount Public Department she wrote that she was born at Versailles on July 12, 1901 (shaving 10 years off her age).

In her glorious Hollywood heyday, she was a star rivaling that of Gloria Swanson and fellow vamp Nita Naldi.

Goudal appeared in several highly successful and acclaimed films for DeMille, who later claimed that Goudal was so difficult to work with that he eventually fired her and cancelled their contract. Goudal filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against him and DeMille Pictures Corporation. Because of this and her high-profile activisim in the Actors’ Equity Association campaign for the theatre and film industry to accept a closed shop, some of the Hollywood studios refused to employ Goudal. In 1932, at age forty-one, she made her last screen appearance in a talkie, co-starring with Will Rogers in the Fox Film Corporation production of Business and Pleasure.

 

Helen Gardner, 1912 via

American film actress Helen Gardner (September 2, 1894 – November 20, 1958), is considered the screen’s first vamp and is known for her portrayals of strong female characters. She predates both Theda Bara, Valeska Suratt and Louise Glaum. She was also a writer, editor, producer and costume designer. Her first production was Cleopatra (1912) which was one of the first American full-length films, playing for many years in the US and abroad.

Olga Petrova via

Olga Petrova (May 10, 1884 – November 30, 1977) was an American actress, screenwriter and playwright. Born as Muriel Harding in England, she moved to the United States and became a star of vaudeville using the stage name Olga Petrova. Petrova starred in a number of films for Solax Studio sand was Metro Pictures first diva, usually given the role of a femme fatale. During her seven years in film, Petrova appeared in more than two dozen films and wrote the script for several others. Most of her films are now lost.

Virginia Pearsson via

Virginia Pearson  (March 7, 1886 – June 6, 1958) made fifty-one films in a career which extended from 1910 until 1932. In her silent heydayn she was known as “the screen’s heretic”. She was promoted by William Fox of Fox Film Corporationfor for strong vamp parts and she reigned along with Theda Bara, Louise Glaum and Valeska Suratt as Hollywood’s most notorious vamps. Among her movies is Blazing Love (1916), Wildness of Youth (1922), The Vital Question (1916), Sister Against Sister (1917), The Red Kimona (1925), Wizard of Oz (1925), and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). She went out of style after WWI and by 1924 had to declare bankruptcy. Thereafter she was reduced to extra parts and was forced to live with her husband, former actor Sheldon Lewis, in a small Hollywood Hotel room.

A Collection of Vintage Photos of Fantasy and Fairytale Film Shots

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Die Nibelungen, 1924

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Die Nibelungen, 1924

A Midsummer Nights Dream, 1935

A Midsummer Nights Dream, 1935

A Midsummer Nights Dream, 1935

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The Thief Of Bagdad, 1924

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The Thief Of Bagdad 1924

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Snow White, 1916

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Snow White, 1916

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Snow White, 1916

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L’Atlantide, 1932

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L’Atlantide, 1932

The First “Alice In Wonderland” (1903)

 

This film, directed in 1903 by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, was the first film version of the Lewis Carroll classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The silent film was made just 37 years after Lewis Carroll wrote his novel and eight years after the birth of cinema. Alice is played by English born May Clark (1889-1984) , who worked for Hepworth Film Studios as a film cutter and production secretary when she was cast as Alice. Hepworth cast his wife as the Red Queen, and he himself appears as the Frog Footman. Even the Cheshire cat is played by a family pet.

The adaptation was based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations. With a running time of just 12 minutes (8 of which survive), Alice in Wonderland was the longest film produced in England at that time.

A Collection of Vintage Photos of Alice in Wonderland (1903-1966)

There have been many different adaptations of the Lewis Carroll Classic. Some of the films are classics, and some (most) are obscurities. Here is an introduction to all the different Alices between 1903-1966. 

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Alice in Wonderland (1903). The very first onscreen Alice was British born May Clark (1889-1984), who starred as Alice back in 1903, only 8 years after the birth of cinema (and 37 years after Carroll wrote his book.)  Originally she  worked for Hepworth Film Studios as a film cutter and production secretary when she was cast.  The film is memorable for its use of special effects, including Alice’s shrinking in the Hall of Many Doors, and in her large size, stuck inside of White Rabbit’s home, reaching for help through a window. Only one copy of the original film is known to exist and parts are now lost.

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Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland (1910). The Second girl to play Alice was Gladys Hulette (1896-1991). It is a 10-minute black-and-white silent film made in the United States in 1910. Being a silent film, naturally all of Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical prose could not be used, and, being only a one-reel picture, most of Carroll’s memorable characters in his original 1865 novel similarly could not be included. What was used in the film was faithful in spirit to Carroll, and in design to the original John Tenniel illustrations. Variety complimented the picture by comparing it favourably to the “foreign” film fantasies then flooding American cinemas.

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Alice in Wonderland (1915). In the third silent film adaptation Viola Savoy (1899-1987) starred as Alice. This film version is notable for depicting the ‘Father William’ poem in its entirety and it includes an image of Tenniel’s illustration of Father William doing his back-somersault at the front door. In the book the poem is recited by Alice in Chapter 5, “Advice from a Caterpillar“. Alice informs the caterpillar that she has previously tried to repeat “How Doth the Little Busy Bee” and has had it all come wrong as “How Doth the Little Crocodile”. The caterpillar then asks her to repeat “You are old, Father William”, and she recites.

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Alice’s Wonderland (1923). This was a Disney short, in it Alice visits Disney’s cartoon studio where the cartoons jump off the page. Later on, she sleeps and dreams that she has gone to Cartoonland where she is able to interact with the cartoon characters. Alice was played by Virgina Davis (1918–2009). Virginia signed her first contract with Disney for a salary of $100 a month, and she began filming the Alice shorts in Walt Disney’s first studio, his uncle’s garage. His brother Roy O. Disney was the cameraman, and the Disney family dog Peggy appeared in many of the films. The Alice shorts became very popular, providing Disney with his first national success. But as the series progressed, Disney became more interested in the animation aspect, which minimized Virginia’s live-action role; she only made about thirteen of the Alice shorts before her contract was severed.

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Alice in Wonderland (1931) This is the first sound version of the story. The film starred Ruth Gilbert (1912-1993) as Alice. This low-budget film was possibly made with a cast of amateur actors, many of whom struggled to reproduce British accents. It came out one year before the centenary of the birth of Lewis Carroll, which was causing a wave of ‘Alice’ fever on both sides of the Atlantic. Because of this interest, the film opened at the prestigious Warner Theater in New York. It was not financially successful though and received little critical attention. Today, it is rarely if ever shown, and for a time there was even some doubt as to whether prints of it still existed. It has never been shown on television

Alice in Wonderland (1933). Charlotte Henry (1914-1980) was Alice in this picture. This film was produced by Paramount Pictures, featuring an all-star cast. It is all live-action, except for the Walrus and The Carpenter sequence, which was animated by Leon Schlesinger Productions. Paramount, wanting to cast an unknown actress in the title role of Alice in Wonderland, picked Charlotte from nearly 7000 applicants worldwide.

Stars who featured in the film included W. C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen, Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle (Grant’s star was still on the ascent at the time), Gary Cooper as the White Knight, Edward Everett Horton as The Hatter, Charles Ruggles as The March Hare, and Baby LeRoy as The Joker. However, it was a notable flop at the box office, the film even cast doubt on whether or not a live-action fantasy peopled by strange-looking characters could be successfully presented on the screen, until MGM’s The Wizard of Oz (1939) erased such doubts, at least in the minds of some critics. Nevertheless, this film remains as of 2013 the only major live action Hollywood-produced film directly adapting the original ‘”Alice” stories.

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Alice in Wonderland or Alice au pays des merveilles (1949). This is a French film version of the Classic. Twenty year old Carol Marsh (1926–2010) starred as Alice.

The film was not widely seen in the U.S. upon its completion, due to a legal dispute with the Disney Studios, which was making its own full-length animated version of Alice at the same time as the Bower version was being worked on. Disney sued to prevent release of the British version in the U.S., and the case was extensively covered in Time magazine. The company that released the British version accused Disney of trying to exploit their film by releasing its version at virtually the same time.

Both films flopped in the U.S. when they opened in 1951, but Disney saw to it that the fame of its version was kept alive by showing an edited version of it on network television as part of their Disneyland series and issuing two record albums based on the film.

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Alice in Wonderland (1951).  This is the 1951 American animated fantasy-adventure film produced by Walt Disney Productions and based primarily on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a few additional elements from Through the Looking-Glass. The 13th in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film was released in New York City and London on July 26, 1951. The film features the voices of Kathryn Beaumont (who would later voice Wendy Darling in the 1953 Disney film Peter Pan) as Alice, and Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter. The film met with a lukewarm response at the box office and was a sharp disappointment in its initial release, earning an estimated $2.4 million at the US box office in 1951.

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Alice in Wonderland (1966). This is a BBC television play, shot on film. Director Jonathan Miller chose Anne-Marie Mallik (1952) to play Alice because she had an appropriate sense of Victorian solemnity about her. Miller’s production is unique among live-action Alice films in that he consciously avoided the standard Tenniel-inspired costume design and “florid” production values. Most of the Wonderland characters are played by actors in standard Victorian dress, with a real cat used to represent the Cheshire Cat. Miller justified his approach as an attempt to return to what he perceived as the essence of the story: “Once you take the animal heads off, you begin to see what it’s all about. A small child, surrounded by hurrying, worried people, thinking ‘Is that what being grown up is like?’

With its star-studded cast and gothic and bohemian overtones, it created quite a stir at the time. Miller had envisaged an Alice “with no stage experience, not very pretty but curiously plain, sallow and a bit priggish”. After advertising the part, he cast Mallik within twenty minutes of meeting her, having asked her (as Mallik recalled) to recite the poem “You Are Old, Father William” which Alice performs for the Caterpillar. Miller’s first impression of her was of a “rather extraordinary, solemn child” who proved to be “naturally expressive” and “not amused by anything [she was] surrounded by”. In similar, though less complimentary, vein, the biographer of Peter Cook, who played the Mad Hatter, has described Mallik’s Alice as “a sullen, pouting, pubescent with no sense of bewilderment”, noting also that, in his view, “the whole piece was strangely lacking in either humour or fear”.