Here's a question for you, dear readers. If Betty Grable was the favorite pinup of WWII's GIs, who held that honor for WWI's Doughboys? The answer could be one of the earliest sex symbols of the silent cinema, Theda "The Vamp" Bara.
She grew up in Cincinnati as Theodosia Burr Goodman and became an actress on the New York stage. Fox Studios discovered her and she went on to become their biggest star by the time of America's entry into the war, which was the same year her most famous film, Cleopatra, was released. Theda's brother volunteered for army service, and she responded graciously first to his buddies and then to other units that requested her sponsorship. As with other stars like Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Theda was also a wholehearted supporter of the war bonds programs and went on to set records for sales.
But her most notable connection to WWI might be that she is believed to be the first female personality adopted for aircraft nose art. The image above, courtesy of theaerodrome.com, shows a U.S. training aircraft with Theda's name. Theda got married in 1921 and made her last film in 1926. There are no talkies featuring Theda, and, sadly, most of her silent films have been lost.