What may come as a surprise to modern readers is just how early “Where are they now?” articles cropped up in film history. Here’s a particularly interesting specimen from exactly 100 years ago when the first vampire film craze was winding down.
Ask a silent film fan to name some movie vamps and they will probably list Theda Bara, Valeska Suratt, Louise Glaum, etc. But this article makes it clear that there were other vamps to contend with, women who had already given up the “Kiss me, my Fool!” game in 1918. (Top Vamp Bara would take a hiatus starting in late 1919.)
Vamps were basically called upon to be metaphorical bloodsuckers, taking everything from their twitterpated victims and then casting them aside. This was all done whilst wearing huge plumes, beaded gowns, heavy makeup and bold patterns, the vixens! Thanks to her association with William S. Hart, whose films are unusually plentiful for a silent star, Louise Glaum probably has the most plentiful surviving footage. Poor Theda Bara only has one proper vamp film surviving and Valeska Suratt has no films at all in existence. (Let me know if you find one!)
Vamps were quite the rage in the 1910s but diminished in popularity by the end of the decade and were pretty much a punchline. Here are some forgotten vamps who left their bloodsucking ways ahead of the vampire crash. This article was published in Photoplay in 1918:
Two or three years ago, Vamps were Vamps. When you saw one, it was the proper thing to gasp, “Isn’t she awful?” and say, “My dear, I simply cannot understand how that woman ever — ” and then you would stay to see it through another time. They were real Vamps then — you hated them; or you loved ’em. Now, it’s different. You just can’t hate the poor creatures. Everywhere you go, a Vamp is thrust upon you — mostly near-Russian Vamps. And we are beginning to feel that maybe Vampires always were imposed upon, anyway. Yesterday, the entrance on the screen of a luxuriantly-appointed Vampire was the occasion of much awed comment ; now, it causes not even a flutter. Of all these ladies pictured here, not one is a-Vamping today.
Alice Hollister — pictorially inactive at present — says she was the Screen’s
First Vampire. That’s nothing: we’d like to know who’ll be the last.
Note: Hollister did indeed star in The Vampire in 1913, two years before Bara’s debut as The Woman Who Didn’t Care.
Helen Gardner was once hated by every wife and mother in the Middle West. She was “A Sister to Carmen” and a whole lot of other awful things. She’s not Vamping or anything now.
Marguerite Snow, the Movies’ First Russian Countess. Since “The Million Dollar Mystery,” we have had eight thousand nine hundred and fifty six.
Lila Leslie, artistic exponent of the gentle art above pictured, was Lubin’s chiefest Vamp. Her mouth was wicked, her gowns bizarre; she wore a cruel black patch just below her left eve. It was terrible.
Cleo Ridgely (left) making Blanche Sweet cry. Miss Ridgely — not playing now — cherished a babyhood ambition to become a famous Vampire: so she named herself Cleo.
You can read more swell vintage content at the Media History Digital Library.
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