While her name is largely forgotten today, her iconic image all dark hair, piercing eyes, and poisonous lips remains. During the teens and early 20s she was one of films biggest stars and earliest sex symbols, earning 4,000 dollars a week and appearing on the covers of numerous film mags.
Throughout her career Bara usually played a definite type, the vamp. The opposite of sweet, girlish Mary Pickford, the vamp was conniving, sexual, and used her charms to enslave men, draining them of their power as a vampire drains blood.
In A Fool There Was, 1915, Bara cemented her image as the vamp when she played the "vampire women." A beautiful creature who meets a business and family man on a ship and seduces him. The vampire women degrades and enslaves men, causing them to abandon their moral codes and become devoted only to her.
The film is the origin of the famous line "kiss me, you fool" though the actual title card reads: "kiss me, my fool."
Eager to capitalize on Bara's exotic image in the film the studio created a glamorous false history for her. Though in actuality she was born in Ohio to Polish and Swiss immigrant parents, Fox Studios claimed she was the Egyptian born daughter of a French actress and had grown up in the Saharan desert under the Shadow of the Shinx. Her new image fit perfectly with her biggest role in 1917's Cleopatra, no copies of which survive.
Many of Bara's films where filmed at Fox Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey before cinema made the move to Hollywood. A street in the town is now named after her
Sadly all but 6 of Bara's films are lost. Most were destroyed in 1937 in a storage vault fire. She left behind few films, but an enduring legacy.