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Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Everything about Sarah Bernhardt is fascinating, from her obscure birth to her glorious career-redefining the very nature of her art-to her amazing (and highly public) romantic life to her indomitable spirit. Well into her seventies, after the amputation of her leg, she was performing under bombardment for soldiers during World War I, as well as crisscrossing America on her ninth American tour.

    Her family was also a source of curiosity: the mother she adored and who scorned her; her two half-sisters, who died young after lives of dissipation; and most of all, her son, Maurice, whom she worshiped and raised as an aristocrat, in the style appropriate to his presumed father, the Belgian Prince de Ligne. Only once did they quarrel-over the Dreyfus Affair. Maurice was a right-wing snob; Sarah, always proud of her Jewish heritage, was a passionate Dreyfusard and Zolaist.

    Though the Bernhardt literature is vast, Gottlieb'sSarahis the first English-language biography to appear in decades. Brilliantly, it tracks the trajectory through which an illegitimate-and scandalous-daughter of a courtesan transformed herself into the most famous actress who ever lived, and into a national icon, a symbol of France.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16879-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt
    (pp. 1-120)

    Sarah Bernhardt was born in July or September or October of 1844. Or was it 1843? Or even 1841?

    She was born in Paris at 5, rue de l’École de Médecine (that’s where the plaque is). Or was it 32 (or 265), rue St. Honoré? Or 22, rue de la Michandière?

    We’ll never know, because the official records were destroyed when the Hôtel de Ville, where they were stored, went up in flames during the Commune uprising of 1871. With someone else that would hardly matter, because we’d have no reason to doubt whatever he or she told us. But...

  4. A Gallery of Roles
    (pp. 121-210)

    Nothing was ever to surpass the sumptuousness of the sets or the magnificence of her costumes (in one scene, her biographer Joanna Richardson tells us, “Sarah wore a dress of sky-blue satin with a train four yards long, covered with embroidered peacocks with ruby eyes and feathers of emeralds and sapphires”).Théodoraran in Paris for a year.La Toscain 1887 was as successful a play as it would later be as a Puccini opera: Her assassination of Scarpia thrilled decades of audiences. There was her gorgeous but claptrapCléopâtre(1890). (In London, one dowager in the audience was...

  5. Epilogue
    (pp. 211-220)

    In 1950, more than a quarter of a century after Sarah’s death, her beloved Maurice Rostand—of whom it was said that he adored her so much that he had his hair curled and dyed to resemble hers, and even made up his face to look like hers—wrote in his memoirs, “Ah! For beings like Sarah, death is not only an end, it’s a beginning as well. The life may be sundered, but the legend goes on. Sarah has not been forgotten, nor has she been replaced.… Her mysterious throne remains empty!”

    Today, well into the next millennium, we...

    (pp. 221-222)
    (pp. 223-226)
    (pp. 227-228)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 229-233)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 234-236)