Monday, May 18, 2009

Sarah Bernhardt's Farewell Performance!

May 19, 1906, at the Venice Auditorium, Mme. Sarah Bernhardt appeared in "La Tosca" as part of her Farewell, America tour--only five years after her first Farewell America tour. Of course, those who missed the 1906 tour could always catch the 1915 Farewell tour.

Hey, she was the greatest actress that ever lived, according to some. If she wanted to call her tours farewell performances, no one argued with her. (If I were really savvy, I'd figure out how to serenade you with "Time to Say Goodbye" as you read.)

Did you know that the opera Tosca was based on the play, written explicitly for the Divine Sarah? This picture is from her Wiki bio, and was taken by Nadar, before 1910.

Brokers in Los Angeles were selling a thousand tickets for $2 and $3--and that included the round trip to Venice-of-America from downtown. Of course, there were also the precious $4 and $5 seats.

On May 18th, the French residents of Los Angeles headed west to Venice and stormed the actress' private car (a railroad car, borrowed from the NY Vanderbilts). They were told by her press agent, "Madame never rises before 2 o'clock and is never visible before 3."

C'est la vie. Since it was after 3, the insistent fans got to meet with their idol and present her with roses. You can read the entire Los Angeles Express article, and a few others beside, at George Garriques' website. You can also read the Los Angeles Times' somewhat snarky review of "La Tosca" here.

This undated picture of the Venice Auditorium as from the Santa Monica Library archives. It sat on the Abbot Kinney pier, seated 3000, and had just been completed the summer before Mme's tour.

Garriques says that Mme. Sarah was brought to Venice by Abbot Kinney because Los Angeles theater owners had boycotted the famous actress. Why did they do that? Well, she dressed in men's clothing to perform men's roles. And not shabby little cross-dressing comedies mind you, but--Hamlet! Their prudish refusal to book the Divine Sarah resulted in a huge coup for Abbot Kinney, who dined with the actress before her shows and made big bucks from the performances.

Find out almost anything about Venice History at Jeffrey Stanton's website.


Delores said...

I, too, am a writer focusing on history. SoCal history, to be exact. Pootling about your blog has been my idea of a good time. A really good time. I found you when I googled "Sarah Bernhardt in Venice" and stayed to enjoy pretty much everything. Love your sassy 'tude and joyfully jaunty stride. You might like my website. It masquerades as an album of postcards assembled by silent screen star Mabel Normand embellished with pictures of herself and some of her thoughts on the Southern California experience, 1912-1930. Here is the link:
Thanks for the work you do, Vickey. SoCal as it was has been a passion of mine since I was about 4 years old. I love it when I find a delicious wallow.


Vix said...

Thank you for the wonderful words! Likewise, I enjoyed your site--It's a dream for fans of the silent film era, Mabel Normand, Mack Sennett and the gang, as well as for those of us who just enjoy perusing pictures of the early, uncluttered, orange-blossom scented Los Angeles

Cafe Pasadena said...

Wonderful background, but I'm wondering if George Garriques has a new URL or website? The link you listed here is now dead.

Vix said...

You are quite right, Cafe Pasadena, and sadly I cannot find another online link to that newspaper.
I did find a book by Adam Braver titled "Divine Sarah" which deals exclusively with that week in the diva's life--the week spent in Venice. The book came out in 2004 and was reviewed by Carolyn See in the Washington Post.