Who is the most famous actress in the world today? Julia Roberts? Maybe, but she's been out of the limelight recently. Angelina Jolie? Quite possibly. Nicole Kidman? Perhaps; in either case, the title is disputed.
But the title was not disputed in the second half of the 19th century, when France's Sarah Bernhardt was unquestionably known as the world's most famous — and greatest — actress. And, unlike the trio of current contenders to the throne, whose every move is covered from every possible angle, Bernhardt's life was shrouded in mystery and contradiction.
Among the mysteries was her supposed affair with the then Prince of Wales, the future King of England, Edward VII. Among the contradictions was her origin; according to some theories, she was an American girl from Iowa, who moved to Paris and changed her name.
As it turns out, the corn fields of Iowa were not in Sarah's past. Instead, her roots lie among the canals of Amsterdam, the birthplace of both her parents. Her Jewish parents.
Unquestionably most famous actress in the world? Affair with the future King of England? Jewish?
Eat your heart out, Julia Roberts. And Angelina Jolie. And Nicole Kidman.