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12 March 2012

Henriette Bonard

Witty and elegant Italian actress Henriette Bonard appeared in 24 silent Italian films. Three times she was the partner of muscleman Bartolomeo Pagano in the Maciste films.

Henriette Bonard
Italian postcard, no. 62. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Crisis in the Italian film industry
Henriette Bonard (on the postcard is written Bonnard) was born as Enrica Bonardi in Cossila nel Biellese, Italy. She started her film career in La fidanzata della morte/The Fiancee of the Death (1916, Mario Voller-Buzzi). Later that year she starred opposite diva Italia Almirante-Manzini in the Savoia Film production Il cadavere scomparso/The missing corpse (1916, Telemaco Ruggeri). For Pasquali she starred that same year in Sua Altezza Reale il Principe Enrico/His Royal Highness Prince Henry (1916, Adelardo Fernández Arias) and La madre folle/The Crazy Mother (1916, Domenico Gaido). The following years her film career stayed in full swing. Her films included the Ambrosio production La spirale della morte/The Death Leap (1917, Filippo Castamagna, Domenico Gambino) with Luciano Albertini, the Pasquali comedy Controspionaggio/Counterintelligence (1918, Polidor), and La contessa Miseria/Countess Misery (1919, Eleuterio Rodolfi) opposite Giuseppe Brignone. For another pioneering film company, Italica Film, she starred in Nina la poliziotta/Nina the policewoman (1920, Giuseppe Guarino) but the following year this company closed its doors. There was a crisis in the Italian film industry and many of the film companies that had been active in the 1910’s went bankrupt.

Bartolomeo Pagano alias Maciste
Bartolomeo Pagano. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 478/2, 1919-1924. Photo: Riess.

A Whirlwind of Gags and Mischievous Tricks
In 1921 Henriette Bonard was the co-star of muscleman Bartolomeo Pagano in three episodes of the popular Maciste series. Maciste in Vacanza/Maciste on Holiday (1921, Luigi Romano Borgnetto) was the most explosive and surreal episode of the series. In 2009 the film was shown at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. Film historians Stella Dagna and Claudia Gianetto wrote in the festival catalogue: “In this episode, almost a ‘light’ counterpoint to the sentimental story of Maciste innamorato/Maciste in Love (1919, Romano Luigi Borgnetto), the chemistry between Maciste and his partner Henriette Bonnard, a witty and elegant actress, spawns a whirlwind of gags and mischievous tricks. Headless sheiks, fast paced chases, exploding Russians whirling in the air: in one of the final sequences, the film suddenly uses ‘early film’ special effects, which contribute to the movie’s naïf and playful charm. Maciste in vacanza is the last one of the series to be shot in Italy before Bartolomeo Pagano’s unfortunate move to Germany.” Bonnard also starred opposite another popular male star of the silent Italian cinema, Carlo Aldini, in Il segreto della Diamond & C./The Secret of Diamond & Co. (1921, Giuseppe Guarino). The following year she appeared in her final film, Il mistero di Bernardo Brown/The Mystery of Bernard Brown (1922, Ermanno Geymonat). Probably the crisis halted her film career then. About what happened to Henriette Bonard, we could not find any information. So if you know more...

Carlo Aldini
Carlo Aldini. German postcard by Ross Verlag, nr. 858/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Rembrandt, Berlin.

Sources: Stella Dagna/Claudia Gianetto (Cineteca di Bologna) and IMDb.

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