02 December 2017

Antonietta Calderari

Little is known about the private life of Itian silent film actress Antonietta Calderari, but it is clear that she was a regular actress at Turinese film companies all through her career.

Antonietta Calderari
Italian postcard by Ed. G. Vettori, Bologna, no. 2016.

A Silent Italian Western


Dates of the birth and death of Antonietta Calderari lack, but we know she made her film debut in 1911 at the Ambrosio film company of Turin.

She first acted there in a series of short film adaptations of books and plays by Gabriele D'Annunzio: La figlia di Jorio/Jorio's Daughter (1911), La fiaccola sotto il moggio/Blood Vengeance (1911), Sogno di un tramonto d'autunno/An Autumn Sunset Dream (1911), all directed by Luigi Maggi, and La nave/The Ship (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1912). In the latter film she had the lead as the femme fatale Basiliola.

Apart from more shorts at Ambrosio, Calderari also acted in some 17 other shorts by the Turinese company Aquila Films, mostly directed by Roberto Roberti, the father of Sergio Leone. Sometimes Achille Consalvi was the director. These films include Un sogno/A Dream (1912), La contessa Lara/The countess Lara (1912), Gente onesta/Honest People (1913) based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, L'assassina del Ponte S. Martin/The Mystery of St. Martin's Bridge (Roberto Roberti, 1913), La torre d'espiazione/Tower of Terror (Roberto Roberti, 1913), and the silent Western La vampira Indiana/Indian Vampire (Roberto Roberti, 1913).

After a few more films at Ambrosio, Calderari did some 13 more films at Aquila in the years 1916-1917, including La cavalcata dei sogni/The Cavalcade of Dreams (Roberto Roberti, 1917) starring Bice Valerian, the wife of Roberto Roberti and the mother of Sergio Leone. 

In the years 1917-1919, Antonietta Calderari appeared in a few films at Savoia Film and other companies. She had a part in Sansone e la ladra di atleti/Samson and the Thief of Athletes (Amedeo Mustacchi, 1919), starring Luciano Albertini, his girlfriend Linda Albertini and then famous cyclist Costante Girardengo as one of the kidnapped cyclists of the film's title. A fragment of this film was found at the Dutch EYE Filmmuseum.

Antonietta Calderari
Italian postcard by Ed. A. Vettori, Bologna, no. 1025. Antonietta Calderari in Naufragio (Luigi Mele, 1920) for Albertini-Film. Naufragio was praised in the Italian press, in particular for Calderari's performance. The film about a female sinner, was at the time better known as Calze di seta (Silk Stockings) and meant death for one of the actors, Vittorio Casali. Director Mele was accused of having neglected the danger to which Casali was exposed during a scene, causing Casali to succumb to a state of depression and finally die of cardiac arrest.

Antonietta Calderari
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Antonietta Calderari in Il pontd dei sospiri (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: The most beautiful Imperia, empress of the courtesans.

Wealthy Courtesan


Antonietta Calderari acted in a series opposite strongman Celio Bucchi and directed by Luigi Mele, Lotte nell'aria/Cracked in the air (Luigi Mele, 1920) also with Alfredo Boccolini, Il tempio del sacrificio/The Temple of Sacrifice (1920), and Naufragio/Shipwreck (1921).

Calderari is best remembered for her part of the wealthy courtesan Imperia in the four-part episode-film Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921), starring Luciano Albertini.

In the film, she first has an affair on the road with a bandit called Scalabrino, from which a daughter rises. Yet, back in her hometown Venice, the proud Imperia, when rejected by Rolando Candiano (Luciano Albertini), son of the Doge, takes revenge by accusing him of a murder she herself committed.

The political enemies of Candiano and his father exploit this to dethrone and blind the Doge and arrest his son on the day of his marriage and throw him in prison, beyond the Bridge of Sighs. But like the Count of Monte Christo, Rolando escapes and takes revenge on his enemies, with the help of Scalabrino (Onorato Garaveo). By doing so he also saves Imperia's daughter from the clutches of one of the conspirators.

The Italian censors not only cut too gruesome scenes of the blinding of the Doge but also erotic images of Imperia undressing and showing her nude behinds.

Antonietta Calderari's last film was Il mistero in casa del dottore/Mystery at the doctor's house (Alessandro De Stefani, 1922) produced by Pasquali Film.

Unknown is what she did afterwards nor when she died. Who knows more?

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia,the most beautiful Roman courtesan, will select the bandit Scalabrino for one night of love, causing the hate and jealousy of Sandrigo.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: In the cave of the bandits Imperia becomes the lover of Scalabrino.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia, the empress of the courtesans, is dressed in ball attire, for her famous dances.

Il ponte dei sospiri
Italian postcard. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Photo: Unione Cinematografica Italiana. Publicity still for Il ponte dei sospiri/The Bridge of Sighs (Domenico Gaido, 1921). Caption: Imperia tries to seduce Rolando, but she is rejected, and will vilely take revenge.

Sources: Vittorio Martinelli ( Il cinema muto italiano, 1921-1922 - Italian), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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