Sarah Bernhardt A Victorious Legend Essay

1019 words - 4 pages

Sarah BernhardtA Victorious LegendSarah Bernhardt was a French stage actress, who at one point attained such heights of fame, she was known as "the most famous actress in the history of the world". (Gale) She achieved great reknown in Europe in the 1870’s and was soon in high demand in many European as well as the United States and Canada. She maintained great success and influence until her death in 1923. Using her fame as a catalyst, Sarah Bernhardt influenced a rapidly changing society as the social roles and cultural representations of women began to shift. The roots of modern feminism are buried in the theatre, and Sarah Bernhardt was certainly one of the women who influenced and helped to bring about societal change. Without the influence of Sarah Bernhardt, the modern feminist cause would be greatly altered. She has helped to mold and shape our society.Sarah Bernhardt was born in Paris in 1844 as Henriette Rosine Bernard, the eldest surviving illegitimate daughter of Judith van Hard, a Dutch-born Jewish courtesan. Educated in Catholic convents, she showed promise in the theatrical arts and was sponsored into the Conservatoire de Musique et Déclamation by the Duc de Morny, a French statesman, in 1859, for theatrical training. (Noble) Her stage career began in 1862 when she appeared in the play Iphigenie in the title role. She soon developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning the title "The Divine Sarah". Bernhardt was also a pioneer silent movie actress, debuting as Hamlet in Le Duel d'Hamlet in 1900. She went on to star in eight motion pictures and two biographical films. In 1915, ten years after a serious injury, her right leg was amputated, confining her to a wheelchair for several months. Nonetheless, she continued her career, in spite of the need to use a wooden prosthetic limb. Her physical condition confined her to near immobility on the stage, but the charm of her voice, which had altered little with age, ensured her success. (Gale) She died on March 26, 1923, at the age of seventy-nine.In Sarah Bernhardt’s time, theatre was the most popular form of entertainment, able to draw large crowds and make celebrities. Technology was also making great advances during this time, allowing for Sarah to attain thus unknown heights of fame- the telephone, the phonograph, the automobile and the motion picture were all invented in her time, all inventions that affected her career in some way. In the early days of the motion picture, most successful stage actors looked down on the medium, considering it undignified and not likely to last. Not until Sarah Bernhardt's 1912 artistic and financial success Queen Elizabeth did her fellow stars begin to flock to the film studios in great number. Most achieved one success in their lifetime, but Sarah Bernhardt made a total of eight films in the waning years of her life, five of which were great hits. (Golden) Universal suffrage had not yet occurred in Sarah’s time;...

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