Rachel Félix

Rachel Félix

Original Name Eliza Félix
Birth
Mumpf, Bezirk Rheinfelden, Aargau, Switzerland
Death 3 Jan 1858 (aged 36)
Le Cannet, Departement des Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Burial Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Plot Division 7
Memorial ID 2223 · View Source
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Actress. She received world-wide acclaim as a French tragedy actress who made her stage debut in Paris in 1838 at the Francais Theatre. Born Eliza Rachel Felix, she was the daughter of a Jewish peddler who roamed in a wagon with wares from town to town with his wife, son and five daughters. As the second child, she was born in an inn, which her Jewish family had stopped for only one night illegally. They family was very poor and many communities were cruel to them because of their faith. By 1831, she was singing on the streets of Paris with her sister, Sarah; their father considered his talented daughters as a source of income. They were “discovered” by Parisian musician and educator Etienne Choron. Her father saw that she received diction lesson and basic acting experiences. She received a few lessons at the Royal Conservatoire after being recognized for her talent. At the age of seventeen in March of 1838, she had her debut in Camille in Corneille's “Horace.” The following October she had the role of Hermione in the great 17 th century playwright Jean-Baptiste Racine's “Andramach.” The critics loved her. In November she played the role of Roxane in “Bajazet,” another of Racine's plays, which has been said was her best role. It was only then a skinny girl, who measured less than five feet tall, got the opportunity to learn to read and write. She was encourage by director, Delestre-Poirson, to use her middle name as her professional stage name; later, she would use it as her personal name being called “Mademoiselle Rachel,” and in bold letters “Rachel” is the name on her tomb. Becoming the new model for a stage actress, her interpretations of the heroines of the tragedies of Racine, Corneille, and Voltarie make her famous and brought the classical tragedy back to fashion to rival with romantic drama. She appeared in plays of the Romantic movement by Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Afred de Musset, but these were not as well-received as her tragedies. She became one of the most famous women of her century. In 1850 she was received by King Fredrick William IV of Prussia and being impressed with her talent, he had a statue of her made in the castle park. The statue of this Jewish actress was destroyed in 1935 by Nazi forces. Her first tour was around France in 1840 and the next year to Belgium and England, where she was received by Queen Victoria. Over her career, she played most of the western European countries, Russia and Poland, the United States and Cuba In 1854 she toured cities in Russia, Poland. Her last tour was in September of 1855 to New York City and elsewhere in the United States and then Cuba in December before the troupe was dissolved. She was a longtime friend of Louis Napoleon, who was one of her many lovers. Of course, the stress of touring and problems in her unconventional private life brought more wear to her declining health. She did attempt to help her siblings to advance in society and chosen professions. She had a beautiful home, Villa Sardou in Cannes. Although she never married, she had two sons, who were raised Catholic in respect to their fathers. She remained strong in her ancestor's faith even in the pressure to convert to Christianity. She was an inspiration to many actresses including Sarah Bernhardt and Caroline-Eugenie Segond-Weber. After suffering for ten years, she died from tuberculosis. With thousands attending her funeral service include the Emperor of France, she was interred according to the Jewish rites, which were performed by the Chief Rabbi of France, Lazard Isidor, in the Felix family vault at the Jewish square of PereoLachaise. The English theatre critic James Agate published a biography of her in 1928, which echoes the anti-Semitic feelings of his day. A modern account of her life and legacy by Rachel Brownstein was published in 1995. The dark shade of face powder called “Rachel” was named in honor of her for the shade of her own complexion.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2223
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rachel Félix (21 Feb 1821–3 Jan 1858), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2223, citing Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .