Bonn, Ferdinand


Bonn, Ferdinand
(1861-1933)
   Playwright, manager. Bonn is best known as the first Sherlock Holmes in German theater and the popularizer of other fiction by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) for the German stage. His first acting job was at the Deutsches Theater in Moscow in 1885; thereafter he worked at the Munich Court Theater, the Burgtheater in Vienna, and for Oskar Blumenthal at the Lessing Theater in Berlin. In 1905 he opened "Ferdinand Bonn's Berliner Theater" on Charlottenstrasse, where he presented an entire repertoire of plays he had written himself. Most critics found Bonn's acting skills tolerable but attacked his playwriting talents with vituperative ferocity. After his theater went bankrupt, Bonn went on tour, though he returned to Berlin and staged a performance of Richard III on horseback for the Busch Circus; critics responded with nearly universal condemnation. His luck changed in 1907 when Kaiser Wilhelm himself came to see Bonn's German-language premiere of Hund der Baskerville (The Hound of the Baskervilles); Wilhelm's son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, who had seen the show six times already, had encouraged his father to attend. The kaiser met Bonn after the performance and praised him for his perseverance and his courage, knowing "the struggle you have had to make." Bonn felt emboldened at that moment to inform the kaiser that he had written a trilogy about the Hohenzollern dynasty. He gave Wilhelm II a copy, but never heard from him again. Bonn contented himself with playing Holmes in other productions of his Conan Doyle adaptations to wide audience acceptance, though general opprobrium from critics rarely abated.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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