PLAYBILL PICKS: Timeless Love Affairs on Stage

By Robert Simonson
13 Feb 2014

Sarah Bernhardt


In real life and in fiction, love and death often go hand in hand. (See Romeo and Juliet, above.) And one of the most famous lover's death was handed by French author Alexandre Dumas, fils, to Marguerite Gautier, the virtuous but tubercular French courtesan at the center of his 1848 novel "The Lady of the Camillas." The novel was popular, but the play Dumas drew from the book, titled Camille, was an international smash. For half a century, if you were a premier stage actress, it was a role you were almost compelled to take on. Eleonora Duse, Tallulah Bankhead, Eva Le Gallienne, Lillian Gish and, most famously, Sarah Bernhardt, all offered their interpretations. Between 1900 to 1935, Camille was done on Broadway 14 times, and Marguerite died grandly for love of her suitor Armand in every single production.