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Seeing Sarah BernhardtPerformance and Silent Film$
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Victoria Duckett

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039669

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039669.001.0001

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Mothers of France

Mothers of France

World War I, Film, and Propaganda

(p.163) 6. Mothers of France
Seeing Sarah Bernhardt

Victoria Duckett

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores new interconnections between private and public life, the provincial home and the global stage, in Mothers of France, a patriotic film that was made to encourage Americans—particularly women—to participate in World War I. More specifically, it considers how Sarah Bernhardt in Mothers of France was used as a propaganda tool to sway American audiences to the Allied cause. Now engaging ideas about nation and nationhood in explicitly combative ways, the film's narrative begins in the bourgeois home but quickly moves into a provincial village and then into the trenches of the war. In the film Sarah Bernhardt appears at her most “cinematic” in contemporary terms, because film allowed her, literally, to move after the amputation of her leg. This chapter considers how World War I brings new meanings to the notion of “the home front” by following Bernhardt as a mother in the home, then see her as a patriot in the town, and finally as a nurse on the home front.

Keywords:   propaganda, Mothers of France, World War I, nation, nationhood, film, amputation, home front, Allied cause, Sarah Bernhardt

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