A Short Film, 1900
This chapter examines Sarah Bernhardt's appearance in the 1900 short film Hamlet. Part of Paul Decauville's program for the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre at the Paris Exposition, Bernhardt's film featured the fencing scene of Hamlet. She had played (and toured) Hamlet successfully on the live stage the previous year. In this way, the film pointed backward just as it pointed forward, to a known theatrical show and to invention, to mechanical mediations that brought with them new ways of presenting and promoting theater. This chapter considers how live musicians, the phonograph, and hand-colored film contributed to Decauville's initiative and hence to Hamlet. It argues that Bernhardt's short film was a calculated response to the new media and to its possible future. Bernhardt did not just adapt her stage work for the screen; she was a savvy businesswoman aware that cinematized theater could attract new audiences to her.
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