September 29, 2015

Sarah Bernhardt The Invention of Celebrity


This photo of Sarah Bernhardt was taken by Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) at his Boulevard des Capucines atelier in 1864.

The sensual black drapery over her bare shoulder was – by design – rather suggestive. It also – again by design – conveniently concealed her illegitimate pregnancy. Even at the young age of 20 Bernhardt was already becoming the master génie de la réclame and was perfecting her greatest role – the role of Sarah Bernhardt....
Her stardom owed as much to her eccentric, flamboyant and scandalous personal life as it did to her acting. She had public affairs with playwrights, actors and artists.2 She travelled with a menagerie of exotic animals, including a boa and an aligator named Ali-Gaga.3 She dressed in Byzantine and Oriental gowns and perhaps most bizarrely, slept in a coffin and performed with a human skull. To her detractors she was completely unapologetic and said simply “Quand même” (So what). “My fame,” she wrote, “had become annoying for my enemies, and a little trying, I confess, for my friends.”....
She reportedly had affairs with Napoleon III, Edward, Prince of Wales, Victor Hugo (who gave her a human skull after her 1877 performance in Hernani), Charles Haas, Jean Mounet-Sully, Gustave Dore, Jean Richepin and Louise Abbéma. She also had “lifelong habit of automatically sleeping with her leading men,” often in the dressing room after performances. She was even inexplicably, albeit briefly, married to Greek military officer/actor Aristides Damala (who died at age 34 from his morphine addiction).
Her personal zoo, which she travelled with, included at various times Ali-Gaga, the alligator that died after too much milk and champagne, a boa constrictor that she shot herself after it swallowed a pillow, Cross-ci Cross-ça, the Chinese chameleon, a cheetah, a leopard, a pair of lion cubs, a lynx, Bizibouzou the monkey and Darwin the dog.
In 1905 Sarah left for her farewell tour of the Americas and while performing La Tosca in Rio de Janeiro she injured her knee. She continued to tour and perform but the knee never properly healed and she was in constant pain. At the age of 71, despite the objections of those around her, she had the leg amputated.6 Eight months later she was performing La dame aux camélias in a wheelchair. - - Codex 99

Posted by gerardvanderleun at September 29, 2015 9:30 AM
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Even at the young age of 20 Bernhardt was already becoming the master génie de la réclame and was perfecting her greatest role – the role of Sarah Bernhardt...

"Genie de la reclame" means "self-promoter," in so many words. So what's being explained is that this chick, in 1865, was the equivalent of Madonna.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at September 29, 2015 4:13 PM

What a lovely woman. The top photo is absolutely timeless.

Posted by: Deborah HH at September 29, 2015 7:07 PM

Outrageous slut, perfect role model for today's entry level hoes.

Posted by: ghostsniper at September 30, 2015 8:51 AM

Flamboyant whore. Whoopteedoo.

Posted by: pbird at September 30, 2015 10:14 AM

Courtesan, fellas, courtesan. Apparently raised to the role by her mother.

Posted by: chuck at September 30, 2015 3:37 PM

Maybe equivalent to today's Madonna, but I would say more like Lady Gaga, but even more so.

Posted by: Grizzly at September 30, 2015 4:16 PM

I think Rob De Witt nailed it....modern day Madonna. Nothing for our daughters to aspire to.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at September 30, 2015 7:00 PM

My father told me "Son, never lay down with a woman that has more troubles than you".

So, that takes care of that.

Posted by: chasmatic at September 30, 2015 9:55 PM

A strong-minded woman.

Posted by: OdinsAcolyte at October 1, 2015 1:45 PM