Bernhardt, Sarah

Bernhardt, Sarah

biographical name


Sarah Bernhardt, photograph by Napoleon Sarony, 1880.—Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

(born Oct. 22/23, 1844, Paris, France—died March 26, 1923, Paris) French actress. The illegitimate child of a courtesan, she was encouraged to pursue a theatrical career by one of her mother's lovers, the duke de Morny. After a brief appearance at the Comédie-Française (1862–63), she joined the Odéon theatre (1866–72), where she acted in Kean by Alexandre Dumas père and Ruy Blas by Victor Hugo, charming audiences with her “golden voice.” Returning to the Comédie-Française (1872–80), she starred in Phèdre to great acclaim in Paris and London. She formed her own company in 1880 and toured the world in The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils, Adrienne Lecouvreur by Eugène Scribe, four plays written for her by Victorien Sardou, and The Eaglet by Edmond Rostand. After an injury to her leg forced its amputation (1915), she strapped on a wooden leg and chose roles she could play largely seated. One of the best-known figures in the history of the stage, she was made a member of France's Legion of Honour in 1914.


Bernhardt, Sarah orig. Henriette-Rosine Bernard

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