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A Fool There Was (1915 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Fool There Was
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Powell
Written byRoy L. McCardell (scenario)
Frank Powell (adaptation)
Based onA Fool There Was
by Porter Emerson Browne
Produced byWilliam Fox
StarringTheda Bara
Edward José
CinematographyGeorge Schneiderman
Distributed byBox Office Attraction Company, Fox Film Corporation (1918 re-release)
Release dates
  • January 12, 1915 (1915-01-12)
  • June 1918 (1918-06) (5-reels version)
Running time
66 minutes (1915 release)
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)

A Fool There Was is an American silent drama film produced by William Fox, directed by Frank Powell, and starring Theda Bara. Released in 1915, the film was long considered controversial for such risqué intertitle cards as "Kiss me, my fool!"[1]

A Fool There Was is one of the few extant films featuring Theda Bara. It popularised the word vamp (short for vampire),[2] which describes a femme fatale who causes the moral degradation of those she seduces, first fascinating and then exhausting her victims.

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[3][4][5]

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  • Theda Bara as The Vampire in A FOOL THERE WAS (1915)
  • A Fool There Was (1915) - Ancient Loops Soundtrack
  • A Fool There Was 1915 full movie



John Schuyler (Edward José), a rich Wall Street lawyer and diplomat, is a husband and a devoted family man. He is sent to England on a diplomatic mission without his wife and daughter. On the ship he meets the "Vampire woman" (Theda Bara) – a psychic vampire described as "a woman of the vampire species" – who uses her charms to seduce men, only to leave after ruining their lives. Schuyler is yet another one of her victims who falls completely under her control. In the process of succumbing to her will, he abandons his family, loses his job and social standing, and becomes a raving drunkard. All attempts by his family to get him to return fail, and the hapless "fool" plunges ever deeper into physical and mental degradation.[6]


PLAY full copy of film; runtime 01:06:20.


The film is based on the 1909 Broadway production A Fool There Was by Porter Emerson Browne, who in turn based his play on Rudyard Kipling's poem The Vampire.[1] Katharine Kaelred played the role of seductress, billed as "The Woman".[7] The star of the play was Victorian matinee idol Robert C. Hilliard.[7] Hilliard's name featured prominently in some advertisements for the movie, though he had no connection with the film.[8]


The "Vamp" (Theda Bara) and the wealthy family man she seduces and ruins, John Schuyler (Edward José)

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.[7] However, in the film as in Kipling's poem, the term is used metaphorically, as the character is not literally a vampire.

The film was the first on-screen appearance of World War I-era film actress May Allison (1890 – 1989).

While the film contains scenes ostensibly set in England and Italy was shot in the USA: [9] in St. Augustine, Florida,[10] New York Harbor, and at Fox Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which at the time was home America's first motion picture industry.[11][12][13][14]


The film was also a watershed in early film publicity. At a press conference in January 1915, 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.

A Fool There Was lantern slide ad, 1915

Although part of the film takes place in the United Kingdom, the film was not approved by the British Board of Film Censors, per its policy of rejecting films with illicit sexual relationships.[15] Although A Fool There Was never received a public showing in Great Britain, later Theda Bara films were allowed.


The film has been said to be unusual for the period in that the Husband does not experience a redemption, even when he hears the cries of his daughter, nor is the Vampire ever punished for destroying a family.[6]


A Fool There Was is one of the few Theda Bara films in existence, with copies at the Museum of Modern Art, BFI National Archive, and other film archives.[16] The other surviving Bara films are The Stain (1914), East Lynne (1916), The Unchastened Woman (1925), and two short comedies that she made for Hal Roach in the mid-1920s.


In 1938, Tex Avery released a cartoon called A Feud There Was.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ a b "Progressive Silent Film List: A Fool There Was".
  2. ^ "vamp | Origin and meaning of vamp by Online Etymology Dictionary".
  3. ^ Mike Barnes (December 16, 2015). "'Ghostbusters,' 'Top Gun,' 'Shawshank' Enter National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  4. ^ "2015 National Film Registry: "Ghostbusters" Gets the Call". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  5. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Weinstock, Jeffrey (2013). "Sans Fangs: Theda Bara, A Fool There Was, and the Cinematic Vamp". In Brode, Douglas; Deyneka, Leah (eds.). Dracula's Daughters: The Female Vampire on Film. Scarecrow Press. pp. 37–42. ISBN 978-0-810-89296-5.
  7. ^ a b c "A Fool There Was – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB".
  8. ^ For example, see this period advertisement.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Silent Sundays Features "A Fool There Was"". Archived from the original on July 30, 2014.
  11. ^ McGann, Mary Ann (December 16, 2013). "Fort Lee was once the movie capital of the world". Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  12. ^ Spehr, Paul C. (1977), The Movies Begin: Making Movies in New Jersey, 1887-1920, The Newark Museum, ISBN 9780871001214
  13. ^ Koszarski, Richard (2004), Fort Lee: The Film Town, John Libbey Publishing, ISBN 0-86196-653-8
  14. ^ Fort Lee Film Commission (2006), Fort Lee Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry, Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 9780738545011
  15. ^ Robertson, James C. (1989). The Hidden Cinema: British Film Censorship in Action 1913-1972. Routledge. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-415-09034-2.
  16. ^ Library of Congress American Silent Feature Film Survival Database: A Fool There Was
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  18. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.


  • J. Gordon Melton, ed. (1999). "Theda Bara". The Vampire Book (2nd ed.). New York: Visible Ink Press.
  • J. Gordon Melton, ed. (1999). "Vamp". The Vampire Book (2nd ed.). New York: Visible Ink Press.

External links

This page was last edited on 29 October 2023, at 21:27
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