SARAH BERNHARDT Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Sarah Bernhardt                                                                   
Birth name: Marie Henriette Bernardt                                                   
Born: 22 October 1844 Paris, France                                                     
Died: 26 March 1923 France                                                             
Sarah Bernhardt (Paris, France October 22, 1844 - France March 26, 1923) was a         
French stage actress, and has often been referred to as "the most famous actress       
in the history of the world". Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of Europe           
in the 1870s, and was soon in demand in Europe and the United States. She               
developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning the nickname "The         
Divine Sarah."                                                                         
She was born in Paris, France as Marie Henriette Bernardt, the daughter of Julie       
Bernardt and a father of Dutch nationality. She added the letter "H" to both her       
first and last name, and used the name of Edouard Bernardt, her mother's brother,       
as the name of her father. This was probably done to hide the fact that her             
father was unknown. Her grandfather, Moritz Bernardt, was a Jewish merchant in         
Amsterdam, Holland. Most likely, her Jewish mother Julie was also born in               
To support herself, it is assumed that Marie combined the career of an actress         
and that of a courtesan. At the time, the two were considered scandalous to some       
degree. She was sponsored by the Duc de Morny in 1859 for the Conservatoire de         
Musique et Declamation, for theatrical training.                                       
Bernhardt's stage career started in 1862 when she was a student at the Comedie-Francaise,
France's most prestigious theater. However, she was not entirely successful at         
the conservatory and left to become a courtesan herself by 1865. It was during         
this time that she acquired her famous coffin, which she often slept in in lieu         
of a bed, claiming it helped her understand her many tragic roles. She made her         
fame on the stages of Europe in the 1870s, and was soon in demand all over             
Europe and in New York. She soon developed a reputation as a serious dramatic           
actress, earning the title "The Divine Sarah"; arguably, she may have been the         
most famous actress of the 19th century. She coached many young women in the           
art of acting, including actress and courtesan Liane de Pougy.                         
Although primarily a stage actress, Bernhardt made several cylinders and discs         
of famous dialogues from various productions. One of the earliest was a reading         
from Ph├Ędre by Jean Racine, at Thomas Edison's home on a visit to New York City       
in the 1880s. Multi-talented, she was involved with the visual arts, acting,           
painting and sculpting herself, and modeling for Antonio de La Gandara. She also       
published a series of books and plays.                                                 
During her time, Bernhardt had a strong influence on grand opera, an influence         
that continues to this day. Tosca and Salome, for example, contain two of opera's       
most sensational heroines, both based on plays written for Bernhardt.                   
In 1914, Bernhardt was made a member of France's Legion of Honour.