A Fool There Was (1915 film)
|A Fool There Was|
|Directed by||Frank Powell|
|Produced by||William Fox|
|Written by||Rudyard Kipling (poem The Vampire)
Porter Emerson Browne (play)
Roy L. McCardell (scenario)
Frank Powell (adaptation)
|Distributed by||Box Office Attractions Company|
|Release dates||January 1915|
|Running time||67 min.|
Plot and controversy
Bara plays a vamp who uses her charms to seduce and corrupt a moral Wall Street lawyer, John Schuyler (Edward Jose). A Fool There Was was long considered controversial for such risqué intertitle cards as "Kiss me, my fool!" 
The film was based on a 1909 Broadway play titled A Fool There Was by Porter Emerson Browne, which in turn was based on Rudyard Kipling's poem The Vampire. On the stage Bara's part was played by actress Katharine Kaelred and was simply referred to as "The Woman". The star of the play was actually a male, Victorian matinee idol Robert C. Hilliard, whose name featured prominently in some advertisements for the movie though he had no connection with the film.
- Runa Hodges - The Child
- Mabel Frenyear - Kate Schuyler (Fool's wife)
- Edward José - The Husband (Fool), John Schuyler
- May Allison - The Wife's Sister
- Clifford Bruce - The Friend, Tom
- Theda Bara - The Vampire
- Victor Benoit - One of Her Victims, Reginal Parmalee
- Frank Powell - The Doctor (as Frank Fowell)
- Minna Gale - The Doctor's Fiancee
Production and legacy
The producers were keen to pay tribute to their literary source, having a real actor read the full poem to the audience before each initial showing, and presenting passages of the poem throughout the film in intertitles. Bara's official credit is even "The Vampire", and for this reason the film is sometimes cited as the first "vampire" movie.
A Fool There Was was also a watershed in early film publicity. At a press conference in January, the studio gave an elaborate fictional biography of Theda Bara, making her an exotic Arabian actress, and presented her in a flamboyant fur outfit. Then they made an intentional leak to the press that the whole thing was a hoax. This may have been one of Hollywood's first publicity stunts.
The film marked the first on-screen appearance of the popular World War I-era film actress May Allison.
Although part of the film takes place in the United Kingdom, the film was not passed by the British Board of Film Censors under its policy of not passing films with illicit sexual relationships. Although A Fool There Was never received a public showing in Great Britain, later Theda Bara films were allowed.
A Fool There Was is one of the few Theda Bara films in existence. The others are: The Unchastened Woman (1925), The Stain (1914), East Lynne (1916), and two short comedies she made for Hal Roach in the mid-1920s. It showcases Bara's status as the original screen "vamp" (so named for her portrayal of a female vampire).
Parodies and Satires
Tex Avery directed a 1938 Merrie Melodies cartoon called A Feud There Was, although the title did not necessarily reference Theda Bara's movie. In an episode of Your Show of Shows (1950–1954) Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca did a spoof of the movie.
S. J. Perelman, in his ongoing series of essays called "Cloudland Revisited," described his original infatuations with books and movies of his youth [ca. 1915-1926], and in "Cloudland Revisited: The Wickedest Woman in Larchmont," re-views, and sardonically reviews, the movie forty years after first seeing it.
- J. Gordon Melton ed. (1999). "Theda Bara". The Vampire Book (2nd. ed. ed.). New York: Visible Ink Press.
- J. Gordon Melton ed. (1999). "Vamp". The Vampire Book (2nd. ed. ed.). New York: Visible Ink Press.
- A Fool There Was at the Internet Movie Database
- A Fool There Was is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- A Fool There Was at the TCM Movie Database
- A Fool There Was at allmovie
- lantern slide plate for the film *note stage actor Robert Hilliard's(star of the play) name used in the publicity
- Digitized copies of A Fool There Was novel by Porter Emerson Browne at Internet Archive
- A Fool There Was (1915) - Full Film on YouTube