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.

Henriette Bonnard
Italian postcard by Ed. Fotocelere.

Crisis in the Italian film industry

Henriette Bonard (on the postcard is written Bonnard) was born as Enrica Bonardi in Cossila nel Biellese, Italy. Her birthday is unknown.

She started her film career in La fidanzata della morte/The Fiancee of the Death (Mario Voller-Buzzi, 1916). Later that year she starred opposite diva Italia Almirante-Manzini in the Savoia Film production Il cadavere scomparso/The missing corpse (Telemaco Ruggeri, 1916).

For Pasquali, she starred that same year in Sua Altezza Reale il Principe Enrico/His Royal Highness Prince Henry (Adelardo Fernández Arias, 1916) and La madre folle/The Crazy Mother (Domenico Gaido, 1916), with Cecyl Tryan.

The following years, her film career stayed in full swing. Her films included the Ambrosio production La spirale della morte/The Death Leap (Filippo Castamagna, Domenico Gambino, 1917) with Luciano Albertini, the Pasquali comedy Controspionaggio/Counterintelligence (Polidor, 1918), and La contessa Miseria/Countess Misery (Eleuterio Rodolfi, 1919) opposite Giuseppe Brignone.

For another pioneering film company, Italica Film, she starred in Nina la poliziotta/Nina the policewoman (Giuseppe Guarino, 1920), 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 1910s went bankrupt.

Bartolomeo Pagano aka Maciste
Bartolomeo Pagano. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 478/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Riess.

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 salvato dalle acque/Maciste saved from the waters (1921) (Luigi Romano Borgnetto, 1921), La rivincita di Maciste/Maciste's revenge (Luigi Romano Borgnetto, 1921) and Maciste in vacanza/Maciste on vacation (Luigi Romano Borgnetto, 1921).

Maciste in Vacanza/Maciste on Holiday (Luigi Romano Borgnetto, 1921) 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  (Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Turin) wrote in the festival catalogue of that year: “In this episode, almost a ‘light’ counterpoint to the sentimental story of Maciste innamorato/Maciste in Love (Romano Luigi Borgnetto, 1919), 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. (Giuseppe Guarino, 1921).

The following year, Bonard appeared in her final film, Il mistero di Bernardo Brown/The Mystery of Bernard Brown (Ermanno Geymonat, 1922) with Armando Cappa.

Probably the crisis halted her film career then. About what happened to Henriette Bonard later, we could not find any information. Maciste in Vacanza/Maciste on Holiday (Luigi Romano Borgnetto, 1921) has been released on DVD by the filmmuseum of Turin, the Museo Nazionale del Cinema.

Carlo Aldini
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 858/4. Photo: Phoebus Film / Rembrandt. Italian actor Carlo Aldini imitating Myron's discus thrower.

Sources: Stella Dagna/Claudia Gianetto (Festival catalogue Cinema Ritrovato 2009) and IMDb.

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