Bara’s extravagant image was the source of her fame, but it likewise shackled her to a very specific set of behaviors — and ways of appearing in public and on the screen. And like all star images, its potency, and its particular social resonance, faded with time. By 1920, Bara’s career was effectively over, and today, only one of her major films remains intact. But for a brief moment in cinematic history, her image functioned as a volatile conduit for displaced female desire. Bara’s image was the immaculate conflation of sex and evil, and in an era still governed by rigid codes of moral, spiritual, and social behavior, it was absolutely irresistible.
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