Recommended Reading

"Sarah Bernhardt in the Theatre of Films and Sound Recordings"

by David W. Menefee (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004, 168 pages, 128 photographs)

"Sarah Bernhardt in the Theatre of Films and Sound Recordings" is a noteworthy offering that piques the interest and inculcates the reader with a desire to know more about this legendary and most famous of all thespians. Author David W. Menefee doesn't attempt to provide us with an in-depth, comprehensive biography of the great star ­- that has been done by others ­- but, instead, delves into heretofore uncharted territory by documenting all of the films and recordings she made. Menefee masterfully transports us back to a long vanished time when the theatre was the ultimate art form, and Bernhardt was a world-renowned name even for those who had never heard or seen her. The brief biography portion of the book, only about 30 pages, effectively establishes in our minds how this artist was revered and dominated the stage not only on the European continent, but in America, as well. But this great lady lived from 1844 to 1923 and has been gone from this earth for over 80 years, and Menefee has whetted our appetites to be able to taste a little more of what made her such a memorable personage all these years later. Herein lies the beauty and the purpose of Menefee's labors. The second section of this book first gives us an overview of how Bernhardt came to make the recordings that have preserved her voice for posterity and how these events melded into the last 21 years of her life. Then, we are treated to background, plus entire text, in both French and English, of each of her 16 recordings. Finally, the third section covers the 12 films she made between 1900 and 1923 with scintillating facts and insightful comments, not just the usual synopsis of the storyline. All of this is intertwined with vintage ads and photos that are a delight to behold. Photographs allow us to view Bernhardt's transition through life from the mid-1800's to a photo of her performing just hours before her death in 1923. For silent movie fans who may have dismissed Bernhardt as a minor player in the history of the cinema, Menefee's commentary will bring about a new appreciation for the legend and her place in cinema and recording history.

This book is published by McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640 ­ Order line: 1-800-253-2187 ­ ­ Price: $35.00.

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