French actress Sarah Bernhardt was probably born on October 23, 1844. Her real name was Rosine Bernardt. Her birth records were destroyed in a fire in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War. When she was later put forward for a Légion d’Honneur, she had to prove French citizenship so she faked a birth certificate. She was as skilled at lying as she was at acting so the truth about her origins is hard to ascertain. Her mother was a courtesan and her father was probably one of mom’s clients, but that’s not the story she chose to tell others.
Bernhardt, herself, switched from being an actress to a courtesan and back again in the early years of her career. When she achieved fame in Europe and America she picked up a new name – “The Divine Sarah.” One of her quirks was that she often slept in a coffin to prepare her for her dramatic roles. She appeared in some of the earliest films, including Queen Elizabeth. Muse to art nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha, Bernhardt was also the lover of at least two princes. She injured her leg on stage and it was amputated when gangrene set in, but she continued to be active as an actress for years. Bernhardt died of kidney failure on March 26, 1923 and is buried at Père Lachaise cemetery.
Today’s quotation, le trac, cela vient avec le talent (luh trak seh-lah vee-n avek luh tah-lehn), is a Sarah Bernhardt quotation. It means “stagefright, that comes with talent.” By all accounts, Sarah Bernhardt had an abundance of talent, even if it doesn’t show to advantage in old film footage. I would have liked to have seen her on stage in her heyday, but I could skip seeing her in her coffin!