SARAH BERNHARDT
France|September 2020
SARAH BERNHARDT
International star of stage and screen,Sarah Bernhardt captured the world’s attention as the original acting diva, writes Helen Parkinson
Helen Parkinson

There are five kinds of actresses: bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses – and then there is Sarah Bernhardt.” So said Mark Twain of the ‘Divine Sarah’, whose star power saw her dubbed the first modern celebrity – and perhaps the ultimate diva.

Born in Paris in 1844 as the illegitimate daughter of a high-class prostitute, Bernhardt’s childhood was surprisingly privileged. Although her father’s identity was unknown, his family funded a boarding school education where she had her first taste of the stage. Later, one of her mother’s influential clients, statesman Charles de Morny, helped her gain a place at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1860 and, two years later, the prestigious Comédie-Française, to pursue her acting career.

Despite earning a handful of roles, this break was short-lived, for her fiery temper landed her in hot water – slapping a more senior actress for pushing her sister, then refusing to apologise, led to her dismissal.

Woman of the world

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September 2020