Sarah Bernhardt

February 18, 2013

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923),
French tragedienne,
back at work, 1915/16, following the amputation of her right leg;
snapshot thought to have been taken
behind the lines on the Western Front in late 1915 or 1916.
She is accompanied by two women,
one of whom (centre) is believed to be the actress, Beatrix Dussanne.
(photo: unknown, 1915/16)

‘Actress, Whose Right Leg Was Amputated, Able to Get to Balcony.
‘Paris, March 12 [1915] – The Gaulois has received the following telegram from Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, at Bordeaux. “I am sending this telegram from the balcony, where I have been walking for the last hour.”
‘“Walking” is, of course, somewhat of an exaggeration, in view of the fact that Mmr. Bernhardt’s right leg was recently amputated, but the telegram shows that her convalescence has commenced.’
(The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Saturday, 13 March 1915, p.7g)

‘“Divine Sarah” Recovered.
‘Bordeaux, June 7. – Sarah Bernhardt is preparing to return to the stage. She is completely recovered from the operation in which her right leg was amputated above the knee, and has been busy rehearsing at Andernes, near here.
‘“I am reserving my first appearance for Bordeaux,” she said. “I will just make a little talk, illustrating it with several poems.”’
(The Edwardsville Intelligencer, Edwardsville, Illinois, Monday, 7 June 1915, p.1f)

‘PARIS (Special. – Sarah Bernhardt made, on August 15 [1915], her first public appearance since her recent operation and the audience which greeted her in the open air theater at Andernos, near Bordeaux, where she has her residence, accorded a tremendously enthusiastic ovation.
‘Mme. Bernhardt appeared at a charitable matinee, the proceeds of which went for the benefit of wounded French soldiers. The Prefect introduced Mme. Bernhardt, while other dignitaries of the Department of Gironde escorted her.
‘When she was seen walking across the stage without crutch or cane or giving any evidence of fault in her gait because of her artificial limb, men, women and children mounted the chairs in the open air auditorium and cheered till their voices gave out.
‘Mme. Bernhardt seated herself in a big chair in the centre of the stage and recited patriotic poems, arousing enthusiasm with every phrase. Once she walked down to the front of the stage, astonishing and stirring her audience.’
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 25 August 1915, p.8c)

‘Holds Reception to Her Friends Between the Acts.
‘The Paris correspondent of London Truth tells of a recent visit of Sarah Bernhardt to the theater. She writes:
‘“Sarah was seen in half-reclining attitude, wrapped up light and loosely in lace and muslins of mauve and white tone. She was quite a figure for a water-color painter, and as diaphanous herself as her wraps. The public, alive to her presence, applauded, as they say here, warmly, not to say enthusiastically. She bowed very gradually, and with an elegant motion of her hand signified that it would give her more than pleasure to take all her welcomes to her heart. Old friends were allowed to offer congratulations and flowers between the acts. Sarah Bernhardt, without sign of fatigue, spoke of her gratitude to mes fideles everywhere; of London, where she had so many generously minded sympathizers, and where she soon hoped to be; of those in the United States, and of her intention to cross the American continent and play at the exhibition in San Francisco. Until she leaves for London she intends to lie by in utter quiet at her place in Britanny. Her artificial leg is a wonder of igneous joinery – light, springy, yet strong, and it lends itself to all the movements of the torso and the other limb.’
(The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, New York, Sunday, 31 October 1915, p.9g)

‘PARIS. Dec. 29 [1915]. – Mme. Sarah Bernhardt who has recently been reported very ill arrived today from Bordeaux. Mme. Bernhardt was looking exceedingly well and when asked how she felt replied,
‘“Why, I am as fit as a fiddle. Reports that I was seriously ill were absolutely false. I am leaving for London Friday to fill a theatrical engagement.’
(The Lima Daily News, Lima, Ohio, Wednesday, 29 December 1915, p.1b)

Sarah Bernhardt
a Jeanne Doré lobby card featuring Sarah Bernhardt in a scene from the film
(photo: Film d’Art, France, released by Blue Bird Photo Plays, 1915)

‘First of the Bluebird Films Shows the Divine Sarah Still a Great Artiste.
‘The first release of the new Bluebird Photoplays was made last week when Madame Sarah Bernhardt was seen in Jeanne Dore. This is the first appearance of the divine Sarah since the operation which removed her forever from the stage, to which she has contributed a lifetime of superlative art. Coincident with the public showing of this first release of the new company comes the announcement that M.H. Hoffman has been appointed general manager of the new company. He will retain his position as general manager of the Universal, and while combining the two offices will keep them distinctly separate.
‘The Bluebird company will be a separate and distinct organization from the Universal, yet will at the same time have the use of all the Universal producing facilities, as well as the distributing organization. The fact makes Mr. Hoffman particularly valuable to the new company, for he is also the manager of the Universal exchanges. The new company will rent space in each of these offices. With the tremendous expense of establishing the production plants and distribution agencies eliminated, Bluebird starts off with an advantage possessed by no other promoters of features.
‘Mr. Hoffman when interviewed by a representative of The Mirror, said: “Bluebird is going to mean a great deal to the moving picture industry. It is going to be more than just a trademark for the releasing of films; it is going to be a degree of quality. A film, in order to become a Bluebird, will have to pass a critical board of fifteen exhibitors, and to get a Bluebird verdict the jury must be unanimous. At the present we have a dozen Bluebird pictures ready for release, all of which are equal in quality to our first release of Madame Sarah Bernhardt. Everything of high art that can possibly be adapted from the science of the acted drama will be translated to Bluebird. We mean to do the right thing in the right way, but do not expect anybody to take our word for it. We shall leave Bluebirds themselves to speak for us to the exhibitor and through him to the public.”
Jeanne Dore, the first of the Bluebird films, is a melodrama by Tristan Bernard depicting the sacrifices of a mother, first for her husband, a gambler, and then for her son, who murders his uncle in an effort to raise money for a faithless woman with whom he is infatuated.
‘Madame Bernhardt portrayed the self-sacrificing mother with her old grace, charm and gravity. In the pictures in which her face was brought close to the camera she resembled a woman of fifty. At no time did she appear feeble or really aged. More than anything else, the photo play appears to prove that if she comes to America she will probably give a surprisingly youthful performance for a woman who is more than seventy.
‘Miss Florence Lawrence, the motion picture star who has just returned to the screen after a two years’ retirement, appeared on the stage just before the Bernhardt picture was exhibited, and later occupied a stage box to see it.’
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 15 January 1916, p.25a/b)

Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt in a scene from the film Jeanne Doré
(photo: Film d’Art, France, released by Blue Bird Photo Plays, 1915)


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