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The actress-manager and the movies: resolving the double life of Sarah Bernhardt
journal contributionposted on 2018-05-01, 00:00 authored by Victoria DuckettVictoria Duckett
Sarah Bernhardt is one of the most globally celebrated actress-managers of the late nineteenth century. Bernhardt’s fame, however, is rarely associated with silent film. This article explores the coincidence between Sarah Bernhardt’s role as a theatrical manager in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and her pioneering work in the nascent film industry. I argue that Bernhardt was not only a performer and manager in the theatre, but a creative agent in modern media industries. Questions about the relationship between Bernhardt and early film allow us to discuss the formation of female business experience in the theatre and its subsequent movement into a cinematographic culture that would dominate and define twentieth-century culture and commerce. Even if Bernhardt is regarded as a ‘lone entrepreneur’ and therefore extraneous to broader national discussions of theatrical industrialisation, it is important to understand the impact she has as a media celebrity who used film in order to expand her own twentieth-century global marketability.