Monday, May 2, 2011

"A Fool There Was" (1915)

“Kiss me, my fool!”

Hooded eyes glow in the yellowed black and white sepia. The Piano sits in a corner, doling out its melancholy voice. The whites of Theda Bara’s eyes pierce time and stand out against tiny insignificant irises of no particular color. Long black strands of hair fall over snowy shoulders as she bends over a suitcase in an ivory nightdress, throwing miscellaneous dresses as her feet stamp with vile impatience.
 The cat-eyed corners over those conversational eyes crinkle in distaste, only to be lost in the scratches and cuts of editors too early in the industry to be criticized. William Fox, in particular, spent hours delicately producing films only to be dehumanized by modern culture. Cleopatra’s grace in exotic dresses and Juliet’s heartbreak are lost with fading memories of a vamp with an inviting mouth. The black mouth of Theda’s glowing cheeks lies hidden beneath the angry set of her three remaining roles as seductress.
            Stamping her large foot once more, unaware of The Piano’s menacing eighth notes, she places her small hands on full hips, her sultry mouth quickly dancing over syllables heard only once. The man in the foreground (Edward Jose) is lost to the sudden and inappropriate movements of the tiny dark-eyed vamp whose kiss infiltrates the screen, quickening the hearts of anonymous witnesses throughout a century.
            Photographs of the vampiress in her gauzy black clothes and curtain of hair lay on the floor of a decaying studio. The film skips as she traipses over to a man, suited and eloquent by the banister railing. Her thick black brow rises with The Piano key. She whispers inaudibly.
A title card announces the passage of time.
            The Suited Man (Edward Jose) stands behind Theda, one hand on her bare shoulder. Her viscous eyes bore into a pale, non-descript woman (Miss Mabel) whose left-hand ring burns her skin. Dressed in black, the non-descript woman motions to Fox, eyes unclear and mouth tripping silently. No title card appears. The Piano tiptoes unconsciously.
A colorless fire. Madame Mystery bats her long-lashed eyes, losing sight of Esmaralda and Carmen in the first blink. Juliet and Cleopatra follow quickly in the second. By the third, the Suited Man (Edward Jose) wilts on his knees. William Fox lies in ashes, bits of charred film held delicately in his fingertips.
            Wrinkles caress the deeply black eyes, but don’t lessen their intensity as Miss Bara wraps her slinky dress around in an overly dramatic fashion, just to be caught by the camera. Silence ensues. Her mouth whispers nothing.
The brown color skips over the Suited Man (Edward Jose) on the floor, whitened eyes sunken behind wooden bars on the railing. The Piano fades as The Vamp steps around the broken man, protectively laying her arms over the empty skeleton, eyes hooded in a hazy glow. 

Theda Bara - Promotional photograph from the 1915 film,
"A Fool There Was," directed by Frank Powell.


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