Monday, March 30, 2009

The Immortal Victorian Of The Month

“It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”
—Madame Sarah Bernhardt, La divine Sarah, La voix d'or (also Widow Damala or Sarah Barnum) b.1844

By 1896, Sarah Bernhardt (born Henriette-Rosine Bernard) had played 112 parts, 38 of which she had created. In 1912, she became the first great stage actress to appear in the new medium of films. Bernhardt also sculpted, painted and wrote.

Bernhardt filled her homes with chairs. She also filled them with a lion and six chameleons because she liked wild animals a lot. Some say that she once asked a surgeon to attach a tiger tail to her back. (He refused.)

She wore pants, played men’s roles, and had love affairs with men and with women. She had a son, Maurice, with Belgian Prince Henri de Ligne, but no one recognized the prince when he was standing next to Sarah Bernhardt.

She was widowed by her vicious, drug-addicted husband, Aristide Damala, even though he was 12 years younger than she. It is said that she sometimes slept in a coffin. Onstage, she preferred characters who died at the end.

In 1915, Bernhardt lost a leg and made a film in that order. She died in 1923, while shooting "La Voyante," for which her hotel room had been made into a studio.

"I am immortal! I am a film!" Bernardt cried.

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