Silent film legend Theda Bara once rowed on Newport Bay and read by moonlight atop a rocky crag on a local beach. A panoramic barge scene from Bara’s 1917 film “Cleopatra” was filmed in Upper Newport Bay.
Bara, who played the famed Egyptian queen, was filmed on a barge on Upper Newport Bay, which was supposed to be the Nile in the film. She was followed by 29 ships, each manned by 60 oarsman. About 700 actors playing Roman soldiers ran down the west banks of the bay for the filming.
The Newport News called the filming “the most magnificent and spectacular scene ever taken on water” at the time.
Bara spent her time in Newport Beach exploring the local beaches and Newport Harbor during the filming.
“I enjoyed Balboa hugely,” Bara told the Los Angeles Times in an article dated Aug. 16, 1917. “And used to delight in hiring a rowboat by night and skimming the bay.”