Sarah Bernhardt was the first global superstar, with huge fan crowds in Europe and America. Mark Twain said: “There are five kinds of actresses: Bad, regular, good, great and “Sarah Bernhardt”.
Bernhardt was born in Paris in 1844 as Rosine Bernardt. Her mother was a courtesan and tried to train Sarah as a high-level courtesan. She sent her to the Fressard Institute, where she learned to read, to write, to embroid and good manners to be a lady of rank.
In 1860 she began attending the Conservatoire de Musique et de Déclamation in Paris. Bernhardt’s stage career started in 1862 while she was a student at the Comédie-Française, France’s most prestigious theater.
She decided to leave France and soon ended up in Belgium, where she became the mistress of Henri, Prince de Ligne, and gave birth to their son, Maurice, in 1864. After Maurice’s birth, the Prince proposed marriage, but his family forbade it and persuaded Bernhardt to refuse and end their relationship.
Sarah followed the footsteps of her mother as a way out to her difficult situation. For a while, and while taking care of your child and still seeking its place in the theater, Sarah worked as a courtesan and made considerable amounts of money during that period (1862–65).
As a single mother began to build a theater career and created the image of an unusual, extravagant and extreme individualist freest woman. It was rumored that she dressed as a man, lived surrounded by animals, organized orgies, walked naked through her elegant house and slept in a coffin of rosewood, upholstered in purple velvet.
She set out to conquer the world with their art and talent. England, United States, South America, Australia, Egypt… Sarah traveled and performed in many theaters around the world where the audience gave itself up to her.
Sarah Bernhardt had managed to become an independent woman and live her passion. In addition to acting successfully in all corners of the world, Sarah became the first woman working as a showbiz manager. Sarah acted and managed its productions in different theaters of Paris. Also, she combined her profession as an actress with sculpture, painting, and literature.
She was one of the greatest lovers of the nineteenth century, as she had many admirers, friends, and affairs. Bernhardt’s close friends included several artists, most notably Gustave Doré and Georges Clairin, and actorsMounet-Sully and Lou Tellegen, as well as the famous French author Victor Hugo.
Alphonse Mucha based several of his iconic Art Nouveau works on her. Her friendship with Louise Abbéma (1853–1927), a French impressionist painter, some nine years her junior, was so close and passionate that the two women were rumored to be lovers.
During a function in Rio de Janeiro, she had an accident that affected her bad knee. In 1915 it ended with a leg amputation (Bernhardt reportedly refused a $10,000 offer by a showman to display her amputated leg as a medical curiosity).
Sarah Bernhardt died in 1923 because of a kidney failure and the news of her agony ran all over the world.
What an amazing woman, don’t you think?