Nationality: Czech. Born: Prague, 29 March 1902. Family: Married actress Suzanne Marwille, 1932. Career: Actor in Prague and Bratislava, 1918; lab man, cameraman, and designer, 1919–21; began film acting, scriptwriting, 1922; began collaboration with Karel Lamac, 1924; billed as Mac Frič on films made during occupation, 1940s; television director, from 1961; 1st Chairman, Union of Czechoslovakian Film and Television Artists, 1965. Awards: Recipient of National Artist; Order of the Republic; Laureate; State Prize. Died: 22 August 1968.
Films as Director (partial listing):
Páter Vojtěch (Father Vojtech) (+sc, role)
Varhaník v sv. Víta (The Organist at St. Vitus) (+ co-sc); Chudá holka (Poor Girl) (+sc)
Vše pro lásku (All for Love) (+co-sc)
Der Zinker (The Informer) (co-d); On a jeho sestra (He and His Sister) (co-d); Dobrý voják Svejk (The Good Soldier Schweik) (+ ed)
Kantor Ideál (Master Ideál); Sestra Angelika (Sister Angelica) (+ ed)
Revisor (The Inspector) (+ ed); U snědeného krámu (The Emptied-out Grocer's Shop) (+ ed); Pobočník Jeho Výsosti (Adjutant to His Highness) (+ ed); Zivot je pes (A Dog's Life) (+ co-sc); Dvanáct křesel (The Twelve Chairs) (co-d); S vyloučením veřejnosti (Closed Doors)
Hej rup! (Heave-ho!) (+ ed, co-sc); Poslední muž (The Last Man); Mazlíček (Darling) (+ ed, co-sc)
Hrdina jedné noci (Hero for a Night) (+ ed); Jánošík (ed, co-sc); Jedenácté přikázání (The Eleventh Commandment) (+ ed); Ať žije nebožtik (Long Live the Deceased) (+ ed, co-sc)
Pater Vojtěch (Father Vojtech) (remake); Svadlenka (The Seamstress); Ulička v ráji (Paradise Road)
Svět patří nám (The World Is Ours) (+ co-sc, role); Hordubalové (The Hordubals); Lidé na kře (People on a Glacier)
Krok do tmy (Madman in the Dark); Skola, základ života (School, the Basis of Life)
Eva tropí hlouposti (The Escapades of Eva); Kristián (Christian) (+ co-sc); Muž z neznáma (The Reluctant Millionaire)
Muzikantská Liduška (Liduška of the Stage; Musicians' Girl); Baron Prášil (Baron Munchhausen); Katakomby (Catacombs); Druhá směna (Second Tour)
Těžký život dobrodruha (Hard Is the Life of an Adventurer); Hotel Modrá hvězda (The Hotel Blue Star) (+ co-sc)
Experiment; Der zweite Schuss (The Second Shot) (+ co-sc)
Počestné paní pardubické (The Virtuous Dames of Pardubice); Prstýnek (The Wedding Ring)
13. revír (Beat 13)
Varuj! (Warning!) (+ co-sc); Capkovy povídky (Tales from Capek) (+ co-sc)
Návrat domu (Lost in Prague); Polibek ze stadionu (A Kiss from Stadium) (+ co-sc)
Pětistovka (Motorcycles); Pytlákova schovanka (The Kind Millionaire)
Past (The Trap); Zoceleni (Tempered Steel; Steel Town)
Císařv pekař a Pekařuv pekař (The Emperor's Baker and the Baker's Emperor) (+ co-sc); Akce B (Action B) (+ co-sc)
Tajemství krve (The Secret of Blood) (+ co-sc)
Psohlavci (Dog-Heads) (+ co-sc)
Nechte to na mně (Leave It to Me) (+ co-sc)
Zaostřit, prosím (Watch the Birdie!) (+ co-sc)
Povodeň (The Flood); Dnes naposled (Today for the Last Time)
Princezna se zlatou hvězdou (The Princess with the Golden Star) (+ co-sc)
Dařbuján a Pandrhola (A Compact with Death); Bilá spona (The White Slide)
Krák Králu (King of Kings); Tři zlaté vlasy děda Vševěda (The Three Golden Hairs of Old Man Know-All)
Hvězda zvaná Pelyněk (A Star Named Wormwood)
Lidé z maringotek (People on Wheels) (+ co-sc)
Přísně tajné premiéry (Recipe for a Crime; Strictly Secret Previews)
Nejlepší ženská mého života (The Best Woman of My Life) (+ co-sc)
By FRIČ: article—
Interview, in Closely Watched Films, by Antonín Liehm, White Plains, New York, 1974.
On FRIČ: book—
Modern Czechoslovak film, Prague, 1965.
On FRIČ: articles—
Hrbas, J., "Martin Frič: Lidový vyprávěč," (in four parts) in Filma Doba (Prague), January through April 1972.
Dewey, L., "Czechoslovakia: Silence into Sound," in Film (London), no. 60.
Taussig, P., Film a Doba (Prague), December 1983 and April 1984.
Bartosek, L., "Scenes from the History of Czechoslovak Cinema," in Czechoslovak Film (Prague), Summer 1985.
* * *
Scion of a notable middle-class Prague family, Martin Frič left the road marked out by family tradition at the age of sixteen to follow the uncertain path of a cabaret performer, actor, and filmmaker. In 1919 he designed a poster for Jan Stanislav Kolár's film Dáma s malou nozkou (Lady with a Little Foot), and thus began his years of apprenticeship. He was by turns an actor, a scenarist, a film laboratory worker, and a cameraman. Of crucial importance to the young Frič was his collaboration and friendship with Karel Lamac, the most influential director in Czech film. Lamac taught him the film trade and enabled him to become familiar with the film studios of Berlin and Paris.
In 1928 Frič made his debut with the film Páter Vojtěch (Father Vojtech) and followed it immediately with his most important film of the silent era, Varhaník u sv. Vita (The Organist at St. Vitus), which dealt with the tragedy of a man suspected of murder. In the sound era Frič quickly gained a position of prominence, chiefly through his ability to work quickly (making up to six films a year) and, no matter the circumstances, with surprising ease and dexterity. Comedy became his domain. His comedies, often produced in two–language versions (German or French), featured popular comedians as well as actors and actresses whose comic talent he recognized and helped to develop. First and foremost of these was Vlasta Burián, who appeared in the situation comedies On a jeho sestra (He and His Sister) with Anny Ondrákova, Pobočník Jeho Výsosti (Adjutant to His Highness), Dvanáct křesel (The Twelve Chairs), Katakomby (Catacombs), and also in the film adaptation of Gogol's Revisor (The Inspector).
Frič had much to do with shaping the film acting of Hugo Haas in such films as Zivot je pes (A Dog's Life—the first Czech screwball comedy with Adina Mandlová), Ať žije nebožlík (Long Live the Deceased), Jedenácté přikázání (The Eleventh Commandment), and Ulička a ráji (Paradise Road). Together with Voskovec and Werich he made the social comedy Hej rup! (Heave-ho) and the modern political satire Svět patří nám (The World Is Ours). Then came Kristián (Christian), a social comedy with Oldrich Nový that is undoubtedly Frič's best work.
But Frič also demonstrated his directorial abilities in infrequent excursions into other genres. His Jánošík, a poetic epic about a legendary highwayman, is one of the pinnacles of Czechoslovak cinematography. Frič showed sensitivity and an understanding of the atmosphere of the time in his film rendition of U snědeného krámu (The Emptied-out Grocer's Shop), a story by the nineteenth-century Czech writer Ignát Hermann. He also made felicitous film versions of the dramas Hordubalové (The Hordubals), based on the novel by Karel Capek, Lidé na kře (People on a Glacier), and Barbora Hlavsová. Following the nationalization of Czechoslovak filmmaking, Frič aided in the development of filmmaking in Slovakia with his film Varuj. . . ! (Warning!). In 1949, in collaboration with Oldrich Nový, he fashioned his next masterpiece, Pytlákova schovanka (The Kind Millionaire), a parody of film kitsch. Following the successful costume comedy Císařuv pekař a Pekařuv pekař (The Emperor's Baker and the Baker's Emperor) with Jan Werich, and an excursion into the biographical genre with the film Tajemství krve (The Secret of Blood), Frič made a few films that were—for the first time, actually—neither a popular nor a critical success.
Frič's last creative surge came at the beginning of the 1960s. He made fine adaptations for Czechoslovak television and directed Chekhov's tales Medved (The Bear), Slzy, které svě nevidi (Tears the World Can't See), and Námluvy (Courting), and once more returned to the studios. The tragicomedy Hvězda zvaná Pelyněk (A Star Named Wormwood) and the comedy Nejlepší ženská mého života (The Best Woman of My Life), the premieres of which he did not live to see, close out his final period of creativity.
Frič's creation is the work of a solid and honest artist who demonstrated his talent in diverse genres from psychological drama to madcap comedy. He produced two masterful comedies, Kristián and
Pytlákova schovanka, which can be numbered among the world's best of the period. The best proof of the quality and vitality of his creative work is the fact that almost a third of the films he made are still shown in the theaters of Czechoslovakia, where they bring pleasure to new generations of viewers.