American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 15

Sarah Bernhardt

The Divine Sarah is not a likely name to find on the rolls of vaudeville performers, but she made several tours with great success.  Sarah never looked down on vaudeville, never pandered to its patrons, and the audiences she faced across the USA responded enthusiastically to her despite the fact she played in French, a language few could understand.

Her success in vaudeville earned her very high fees, paid daily in gold coin.  Her extravagance ensured that she was always in need.  She adapted and abridged classics of French and English theatre into playlets for her vaudeville tours, including Sardou’s Théodora, Hugo’s Lucrezia Borgia, Racine’s Phèdre, and the final act of La Dame aux Camélias.

Bernhardt’s last tour of the USA was in the style of the grand old trouper.  She was 73, close to death and had lost her leg to amputation.  She roused both audiences and the other vaudevillians on the bill with her portrayal of the death scene from Jeanne d’Arc.