No. No. No that kind of vamp. Not a vampire. The silent film vamp! Ok. Ok. Let me explain.
The term vamp (for a woman) originated in during the silent film era. Prior to that it was generally a short form for the word vampire. In the 1920s A Vamp was the combination of the Flapper and the now more public erotic behavior of women. It might have also been used toward a woman who was a tease. Vamp gained even more popularity when silent films began.
Along with my love of silent film, I absolutely a more interesting characters, clothes and their make up was always way over the top. They were saucy. They were seductive. They were sassy. They definitely were bolder, braver and stronger. These were women I would have looked up to if I was around in the 1920s.
Theda Bara was probably one of the most famous vamps or at least a name that is recognizable to most. But… there were more. So many more.
Olga Petrova, Nita Naldi, Pola Negri, even Hedda Hopper (aka Hollywood gossip column queen), and Virginia Pearson, were also incredibly popular vamps, but somehow their names don’t come up as often. Some of these actresses went on to have long careers on stage and screen while others were not able to make it past these roles.
Here are a few other great articles on Vamps in the Silent Movies.