Girl Crush: Sarah Bernhardt

January 20, 2011 in Costume, Design, Fashion, Girl Crush, Personalities by alliemcc


"Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich."

When I was little, when I had a tantrum or just a crying fit about something, my parents would teasingly call me "Sarah Heartburn".

{ Origins of "Sarah Heartburn" : it seems even during Bernhardt's lifetime, this was a play on words, and she herself saw William Henry Rice perform as "Sarah Heartburn" in drag at a Philadelphia burlesque theater. And my parents weren't the only one to tease me on this– just Google "Sarah Heartburn" and you'll see many personal references, some whiney.  }

Sarah was perhaps the first international celebrity actress. At a time when actresses were still considered subhuman and basically prostitutes, she was an extremely popular and well-paid performer.  She rose to fame in the 1870s, and eventually owned and managed her own theater.

She was known to sleep in a coffin. One story claims she had it made to help her understand her tragic roles. Another version I've seen says that she was not a healthy child, and was convinced that she would not live long, so had her mother buy the coffin so she could get accustomed to sleeping in it.

(Like a certain other French Girl Crush, La Divine Sarah was not averse to creating stories and changing them as needed, hence the multiple versions of stories…)

She hung out with artists and writers such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas (Jr.) and Alphonse Mucha, who was like her personal Designer of Fabulosity.

Ohhh, the Art Nouveau costumes!…

Sarah’s love for animals was well-known.   As a child, she collected spiders, lizards, and crickets.    When Sarah played Cleopatra, she insisted on using a real snake for the death scene.  Her home was a zoo of domestic and wild animals.   When Alexandre Dumas visited her house the first time, a puma ate his hat.  Only a few minutes later, a gray parrot flew in the room, landed on his shoulder and began biting off the buttons of his waistcoat. via Gypsy Scarlett

Her leg was eventually amputated when it did not heal properly after a stage leap in Rio de Janeiro, giving rise to several urban legends (e.g. PT Barnum offered to buy it and display it in his show) even to recent times.

Click here for the Wiki-Biography.


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