PARIS (AP) — French stage star Sarah Bernhardt was one of the most famous women in the world until her death in 1923 — a status she owes not only to her acting talent but to her modern instincts for self-advertising and using the press to boost her image.
A century later, a French museum opened an exhibition of the eccentric, outrageous and multi-volume artist known as La Devin, considered by many to be the world’s first celebrity.
At the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris, the public now discovers an insane panorama of Gothic stories, costumes, recordings, films, photographs, jewellery, sculptures and personal objects brought together for the first time – what made Bernhard such magic in Berlin. in London and New York.
Sarah Bernhardt was more than just a famous actress. She was one of the first celebrities. She was a businesswoman, fashion icon, sculptor, theater director, visionary, and courtesan. Pushing gender boundaries. Through self-publicity, she paved the way for many, including Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, “Sarah Bernhardt: And the woman made the star,” said Stefani Cantarotti, commissioner.
The show, which marks the centenary of his death, brings together some 400 pieces that delve into the ramifications of his life on stage.
It begins at the dawn of her career: a handwritten entry in the official Parisian register of courtesans in the 1860s with a portrait of her and a description of the activities of this young “courtress”. Bernhardt was born after all into her first role in her life: her mother was also a courtesan and mistress of Napoleon III’s half-brother.
The show swings freely through the timeline of her life: from her early stage debut after Alexandre Dumas took her to the Comédie-Francis, to her most famous roles as Joan of Arc, Phaedra and Cleopatra – showing the dazzling costumes donned by Sarah at the Bernhardt Theater that was for Americans at the time the emblem of Paris At the dawn of the modern fashion industry. The Châtelet’s Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt has since been renamed the Théâtre de la Ville, while all that remains in the building that bears her name is a restaurant and café.
She was one of France’s most vocal feminists and was quoted as saying that she needed to play male characters to feel less restricted. A photograph in the gallery shows Bernhardt in a man’s suit, playing Hamlet in a French version of the play.
She said that the roles given to women were not interesting enough and she could not show all her talents while playing them, so she played many male roles. More important. When it was illegal for a woman to do so – decades before stars like Marlene Dietrich.
One of his first influences was Oscar Wilde, for whom he wrote the play Salome in French and called it “the incomparable”. Inspired by Marcel Proust. Gustave Flaubert visited her in her dressing room, while Mark Twain wrote: “There are five kinds of actresses: bad actresses, honest actresses, good actresses, great actresses, and Sarah Bernhardt.”
Her intuition for using emerging media and theatrical stories for journalism was a major factor in the Special Actress charm.
She rose to prominence at the 1878 Universal Exhibition, escaping in a hot air balloon over the Tuileries Gardens, slashing the neck of a bottle of champagne with a sword and tasting foie gras, she says, to escape the stench of Paris.
Not all was well—she suffered from a lung, a kidney, and, later in life, a leg—but she was not suffering from depression.
Because of his penchant for tragic roles, rumors spread that Bernhardt slept in a coffin at night. She saw potential in playing gossip: She paid for a padded coffin to install in her home and hired a photographer to take pictures of her sleeping.
“That photo went everywhere, and became very famous. She had a hat made out of bats,” Cantarotti said.
Then The Gothic became her trademark when she had a little pet crocodile at home, and named him Ali Gaga. Ali Gaga died of liver failure because Bernhardt drank nothing but champagne, according to Cantarotti.
Then Bernhardt acquired the United States. She was greeted there as a celebrity during her 1912-13 American tour, though few could understand anything from the performances in French.
The tour closely followed the success of his pioneering 1912 silent film, Queen Elizabeth. The man who obtained the US rights to show it during his tour, Adolf Zukor, became so wealthy that he used the film’s profits to found the Paramount Pictures movie studio — then Famous Players Film Company — according to the museum.
However, sculpture was the undying passion of his life, producing magnificent works in marble and bronze – some of which were honored and shown at the 1900 Universal Exhibition. Many of his sculptures are on permanent display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
“Now it seems that I was born to be a sculptor and began to see my theater in a bad light,” said Bernhardt in her autobiography.
The show says, “In spite of everything” was its motto and catchphrase.
“Despite the difficulties she faced in her life, she started out as a courtesan, trying to break into the world of men. In spite of everything, after her amputation, she continued with her life,” Cantarotti said.
Sarah Bernhardt: The Woman Who Made the Star runs through August 27.
Thomas Adamson, Associated Press