Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Sarah Bernhardt (1841 - 1923) - French Actress

According to British Journalist Cecil Roberts, who was a First World War Correspondent, the great French actress Sarah Bernhardt toured Britain raising funds for the French Army in 1916.  Sarah was by then in her seventies and had had a leg amputated two years before.   Wherever Sarah Bernhardt went, ‘The Divine Sarah’ played to packed houses, in spite of the fact that most of the British audience did not understand a word of French. 

Sarah Bernhardt also entertained the troops on the Western Front in the ‘Theatre aux Armees’.  She gave a matinee performance at a Liverpool Theatre, in front of “everyone of eminence in the city”, in ‘Mort au Champ d’Honneur’, which Roberts described in detail.  She played “the part of a young (French) officer, dying, who was carried wounded from the battlefield and deposited beneath a tree.  At his request they brought a French flag to him and holding it in his hands he apostrophised the survival and glory of France”.  After many curtain calls, the stage had become ‘a flower garden’, such was the appreciation of the British public.   After the performance, Roberts was able briefly to meet the great actress backstage, an honour he never forgot.     

‘The Years of Promise’, Cecil Roberts (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London, 1978), pp. 127 - 128
Photo:  Sarah Bernhardt on the Western Front during WW1 with two companions and some French officers.

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