Sarah Bernhardt – Feminist icon

Sarah Bernhardt - Feminist icon

Feminist icons: Rarely have we encountered a woman as sumptuous as the divine Sarah Bernhardt. A mysterious actress who said, “I have often been asked why I am so fond of playing male parts. It is not male parts, but male brains that I prefer.”

Dear Sarah Bernhardt:

Rarely has the world known a more interesting woman. Also known as ‘The Divine Sarah’, you were an actress, model, writer, sculptor, painter business woman, lover and mother. Your life is clouded in mystery and superstition. It’s hard to dissect your life from your art since you put the essence of yourself in everything you did. We don’t mind though – because that is all part of the Sarah Bernhardt charm. The biggest mystery to us is how on earth did someone like you went from being one of the famous women in the world to being virtually unknown in the modern day world.

When other artists hope to be a double or triple threat, you simply surpass them all with your many talents. Oh, how we wish you were still alive so we could still see you in action! We hope that we don’t go too far by saying this, but Sarah Bernhardt… you are sensational and deserve your divine title and more.

Much Love, Mookychick xxx

Sarah Bernhardt Best Known for:

Being the greatest actress of the 20th century if not of all time.

Sarah Bernhardt Least Known for:

Her horrible problem with stage fright, which she fondly called “The Monster”.

Sarah Bernhardt Quotes:

“In Spite of it all.” (A bit of motto to live by for the Divine Sarah. She often wrote the phrase on her dressing room mirror whenever she had a case of stage fright. She also had the phrase embroidered on napkins, pillows, and her bedspread.

Oscar Wilde: “Do you mind if I smoke?” Sarah Bernhardt: “I don’t care if you burn.”

“I have often been asked why I am so fond of playing male parts. As a matter of fact, it is not male parts, but male brains that I prefer.”

“Me pray? Never! I’m an atheist.”

“What would life be without art? Science prolongs life. To consist of what – eating, drinking, and sleeping? What is the good of living longer if it is only a matter of satisfying the requirements that sustain life? All this is nothing without the charm of art.”

“I shall save someone! I promise to save someone! It’s true I can’t swim, but it doesn’t matter! I shall learn!” (Said after getting a lifesaver’s medal for a benefit performance.)

A brief History of Sarah Bernhardt:

A woman like Sarah Bernhardt has got to have an interesting origin and her life before she became the greatest actress the world has ever known does not disappoint.

Sarah Bernhardt was born on October 23rd, 1844 by Judith Bernhardt, a courtesan who found the trials of raising a baby to be too restraining. Little Sarah was sent to live with a wet-nurse in Brittany, who fondly called her Milk Blossom. She stayed with her for the first eight years of her life till Judith found herself pregnant again and decided that then was the time to send Sarah off to boarding school. She stayed at Madam Fressard’s school for the next two years of her life where she learned how to read, write, cook, count – and all the other skills a young lady would need at the time. After Madam Fressard’s Sarah would finish up her formal education at Notre Dame du Grandchamp Covent school. At Grandchamp, Sarah’s love for acting began to really develop and even was able to put on a performance for the archbishop of Paris.

Throughout her life Sarah was a very sickly child and she was told around the age of 15 that she only had a short time to live. Sarah began to develop a bit of an obsession with death and begged her mother to buy her a coffin, which she posed for a photograph in and was later buried in.

At the age of 15 her future was to be decided and since Sarah was too temperamental to be a courtesan like her mother it was decided that marriage would be best for the young Sarah. When Sarah Bernhardt heard this she raised her eyes up to the heavens and declared that she would only be married to God and God only. The Duc de Morny who was present for this told Sarah she was a born actress and that she should study at the Conservatoire.

After studying at the Conservatoire, Sarah began her career Comédie-Française as an actress in small roles, which she was not much praised for. In time her acting improved and became highly acclaimed. During her time at the Comédie Sarah had become extremely close to her little sister Regina and defended her when she accidently stepped on the train of a famous actress known as Madam Nathalie. Madame Nathalie shoved Regina to a stucco pillar causing. Sarah retaliated to Madame Nathalie’s rude behavior by smacking her across the face. This was a shock because it was unheard of a young actress like Sarah to treat a veteran actress in such a manor. The press had a field day with this and so began Sarah’s career in the press.

It wasn’t till ten years later that Sarah would return to the Comédie-Française and during those ten years she worked on her craft, playing in much smaller theatres in France. She performed in plays such as Ruy Blas,Phedre,La Dane aux Cameilas, and Hernani. During Sarah’s time at the theatre she began to pursue other artistic feats such as becoming an accomplished sculptor and painter. Sarah’s time at the theatre wasn’t always so joyous because in 1874 Sarah had to endure the passing of her little sister Regina.

The Comédie-Française soon became too small a world for Sarah so she decided to conquer the stage in England and later in America. Her tours in both countries were critically acclaimed and the public adoration for Sarah grew, but even that wasn’t enough for Sarah so she decided to embark on a world tour even when she was well past the age of fifty.

Sarah’s life revolved around acting and she acted no mater what, even when she had lost a leg to an unfortunate accident on stage (in a jump from a parapet exacerbating a decade-old injury. The leg had to be amputated) and had no choice but to be carried around on a couch in order to perform. To the surprise of many Sarah also played the part of 19-year-old Joan of Arc well past the age of sixty and wowed audiences everywhere when she dared play male roles such as that of Hamlet.

Throughout her life Sarah Bernhardt came across many famous artists and developed a kind of special relationship with all of them. She became a model for the famous Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha, who made gorgeous posters for her plays – that are now all considered great works of art. She developed a special relationship with the famous writer Oscar Wilde… who even wrote the play Salome for her.

When other famous stage actors and actresses shunned the world of cinema and tagged it as some kind of fad, Sarah jumped right in and immersed herself in the new form of acting and even helped add credibility to the new upcoming world phenomenon. Sarah acted in several early films and even wrote a few. In honor of contribution to cinema Sarah has her own star on the Walk of Fame.

At the age of 79 on March 26th Sarah Bernhardt died at home and was laid to rest in the coffin that was purchased for her when she was just a 15 year old girl. Thousands of people lined the streets to mourn the loss of the greatest actress who had ever lived. She was laid to rest at Père Lachaise cemetery the same resting place of the famous writer Oscar Wilde and the famous singer Edith Piaf.

Mooky Factor:

If Sarah herself wasn’t the one who invented mooky, she was certainly the one who perfected what it means to be a mookychick. The woman was just an unstoppable force who was able to overcome just about everything ,even when the odds were against her. She had a lust for life that just can’t be measured and was willing to try anything and everything that caught her fancy.

Sarah Bernhardt Links: