Bonnard, Mario

(1889-1965)
   Actor, screenwriter, director. One of the leading male actors of the Italian silent period, Bonnard joined Ambrosio Film in 1911. After a number of light roles that showcased his cultivated and refined looks, he took on the more difficult role of Satan in Ambrosio's much-acclaimed triptych of evil, Satana (Satan, 1912), a film that anticipated, and in all probability influenced, D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1914). His most renowned performance during this period, however, was in the role of the elegant but sickly young nobleman in Ma I'amor mio non muore (But My Love Will Not Die, 1913), the film that launched Lyda Borelli as the first diva of the Italian silver screen and Bonnard with her as the leading male star.
   Like many actors during this period, Bonnard soon graduated to directing, beginning in 1917 with L'altro io (The Other Me), a loose adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He continued to both act and direct in the 1920s, producing, among others, a creditable two-part adaptation of Manzoni's classic historical novel Ipromessi sposi (The Betrothed, 1922) before working for a period in France and Germany, where he directed several Bergfilme (mountain films). One of the first sound films he made upon returning to Italy was Tre uomini in frac (I Sing for You Alone, 1932), the film in which both the De Filippo brothers and starlet-to-be Assia Noris made their big-screen debuts.
   Of the other films he directed in subsequent years, the ones most remembered are the two popular working-class melodramas Avanti c'eposto (Before the Postman, 1942), notable, in part, for the collaboration of Cesare Zavattini and Federico Fellini on the script and as Aldo Fabrizi's first time on the screen, and Campo de'Fiori (Peddler and the Lady, 1943), which provided Anna Magnani with one of her first significant film roles. Bonnard's foray into the peplum genre at the end of his career, a remake of the classic Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (The Last Days of Pompeii, 1961), was competent enough as a genre film but is remembered mostly for having been completed by the young Sergio Leone.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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