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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt was born in Paris as Rosine Bernardt on October 22, 1844, the daughter of Julie Bernardt and an unknown father.

She made her name in 1869 at the Odéon in the breeches part of Zanetto in Francois Francois Coppée's The Passer-by.

Bernhardt photographed by Félix Nadar 1865

After her film debut in Le Duel d'Hamlet (1900), Sarah Bernhardt declared she detested the medium; yet she consented to appear in another film, La Tosca, (1909). Upon seeing the results, she reportedly recoiled in horror, demanding that the negative be destroyed.

As a result of an accident in February 1905, while playing the title role in Victorien Sardou’s drama La Tosca, the 70-year-old Sarah Bernhardt had one of her legs amputated. While she was recovering, the manager of an exhibition in San Francisco offered her $100,000 to exhibit her leg. The redoubtable actress cabled two words in reply: “Which leg?” Despite her disability, Bernhardt returned to the stage, still playing romantic roles.

Sarah Bernhardt made Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth, (1912) in Britain. The receipts from this film's distribution in the US provided Adolph Zukor with the funds to found Paramount Studios.

Bernhardt was fond of wild animals and had at home a lion and six chameleons. According to some biographies (probably more fanciful than reliable) she asked a surgeon to fasten her a tiger tail but that man replied it was impossible.

Another of Bernhardt's strange tastes was collecting chairs, that she used to buy everywhere filling all the homes she lived in. 

After a flight on a balloon Bernhardt wrote a book entitled Dans les nuages, impressions d'une chaise (In clouds, impressions of a chair).

Bernhardt, it seems, was a little worried by thoughts of death. At the age of 15 she bought a coffin in which sometimes she slept. On stage she preferred characters that died at the drama's end.

Sarah Bernhardt died from uremia following kidney failure on March 26, 1923. La Voyante (The Clairvoyant) was being filmed in her Paris home at the time. 

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