A group biography of the four women who most influenced a theatrical era--Rachel Felix, Adelaide Ristori, Sarah Bernhardt, Eleanora Duse. Because of the excellent biographical material already available on Bernhardt and Duse, this book will be valued chiefly for its contributions on Felix and Ristori; for its succinct comparisons of acting styles and personal temperament and for its footnotes on the times, a gaslight era when bored audiences either took to throwing things or to their newspapers. Early, it was Rachel vs. Ristori, who, according to Mr. Knepler, arrived as challenger some fifteen years after Rachel's initial triumph, and found the French duenna exhausted both physically and mentally. An unfair confrontation that repeated itself in the French favor in later years when Bernhardt masterminded an acting test that temporally buried Italy's Duse, until her magnificent triumphant recovery. This deals mostly with the mood and magnificence of the acting but there's a very satisfying commentary on personal history and off-stage life and loves. For the special collection.