The Forum

Discover world history, culture and ideas with today’s leading experts


Sarah Bernhardt: Queen of stage and screen

Whether photographed in a coffin or depicted on an Art Nouveau poster, the French actor Sarah Bernhardt knew exactly how to get maximum publicity. Although her first outings on the stage were unremarkable, she refined her skills and rose to become the leading actor of her generation and a world-famous name. Her life off-stage was a further source of endless fascination, her eccentric and occasionally arrogant behaviour only adding to her allure. Her critics saw her as manipulative and hackneyed. For her admirers, seeing Bernhardt ‘die’ on stage was a moment to be treasured for ever. Bridget Kendall charts Sarah Bernhardt’s life and career with John Stokes, emeritus professor of modern British literature at King’s College London and author of The French Actress and Her English Audience; Victoria Duckett, senior lecturer in screen and design at Deakin University in Melbourne and the author of Seeing Sarah Bernhardt: Performance and Silent Film; and Sharon Marcus, the Orlando Harriman professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Her 2019 book The Drama of Celebrity is an exploration of the processes that propel a figure such as Sarah Bernhardt to global fame. Producer: Fiona Clampin (Photo: Posters showing Sarah Bernhardt as Camille in La Dame Aux Camelias (Lady of the Camellias) by Alphonse Mucha. Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG/DeAgostini/Getty Images)


 2021-10-21  39m