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Bernhardt, Sarah

Born: 1844 AD
Died: 1923 AD

1844 – Born in October 22nd in Paris , France. The greatest French actress of the 19th century, and one of the best-known figures in the history of the stage.

1860 – One of her mother’s lovers, the Duke de Morny, Napoleon III’s half brother, decided that she should be an actress and, when she was 16, arranged for her to enter the Paris Conservatoire, the government-sponsored school of acting.

1862 – Sarah Bernhardt left the Conservatoire and, thanks to the Duke de Morny’s influence, was accepted by the national theatre company, the Comédie-Française, as a beginner on probation.

1863 – Her contract with the Comédie-Française was canceled after she slapped the face of a senior actress who had been rude to her younger sister.

1866 – Bernhardt signed a contract with the Odéon theatre and, during six years of intensive work with a congenial company there, gradually established her reputation.

1868 – Her first resounding success was as Anna Damby in the revival of Kean, by the novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas pére.

         – She played the role of Cordelia in Le Roi Lear there.

1869 –  Bernhardt’s greatest triumph at the Odéon came when she played the minstrel Zanetto in the young dramatist François Coppée’s one-act verse play Le Passant (“The Passerby”)—a part that she played again in a command performance before Napoleon III.

1870 – During the Franco-German War, she organized a military hospital in the Odéon theatre.

1872 – Bernhardt left the Odéon and returned to the Comédie-Française, where at first she received only minor parts.

1874 – She had a remarkable success there in the title role of Voltaire’s Zaïre, and she was soon given the chance to play the title role in Jean Racine’s Phèdre, a part for which the critics supposed she lacked the resources needed to portray violent passion.

1878-1879 – She played Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello, and when the Comédie-Française appeared in London, Bernhardt played in the second act of Phèdre and achieved another triumph.

1880 – Bernhardt formed her own traveling company and soon became an international idol.

1893 –  Bernhardt became the manager of the Théâtre de la Renaissance.

1899 – She relocated to the former Théâtre des Nations, which she renamed the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt and managed until her death.

1914 – Bernhardt was made a member of the Legion of Honour.

1920 – Bernhardt published a novel, Petite idole, that is not without interest since the actress-heroine constitutes an idealization of its author’s own career and ambitions.

1923 – Died on March 26th in Paris.