Willi Forst

Willi Forst

Additional Names: Wilhelm Anton Frohs (Geburtsname)
Darsteller, Regie, Drehbuch, Musik, Produzent
*07.04.1903 Wien, Österreich; †11.08.1980 Wien, Österreich

Biography

Wilhelm Anton Frohs was born on April 7, 1903, in Vienna. His father was the porcelain painter Wilhelm Frohs, his mother the miller's daughter Maria Perschl. After finishing secondary school and working with some amateur theater groups, Forst got his first stage engagement in 1919 in Cieszyn, Poland, as "second adolescent lover and comedian, with choir commitment" (Forst 1963). Later, he worked for a number of other German-speaking provincial theaters.

In 1925, Forst got a contract at the Metropol-Theater in Berlin, where he appeared in operettas and revues, followed by engagements at the Carltheater in Vienna, the Theater des Westens in Berlin and the Apollo-Theater in Vienna. In 1927, he returned to the straight theater. In Berlin, he worked with Erwin Piscator (Lessing-Theater) and Gustav Hartung (Renaissance-Theater), followed by a three years" engagement at Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater ("German Theater").


In 1920, Forst made his movie debut with the Austrian film "Der Wegweiser", but it wasn't before 1927 that he could be seen on the big screen on a regular basis. In two movies he starred alongside Marlene Dietrich: In "Café Electric", he played a pimp, and in "Gefahren der Brautzeit" ("Dangers of the Engagement Period"), he portrayed a womanizer – an "elegant young greyhound … smug" (Lotte H. Eisner).

In 1929, he attracted huge attention with his first appearance in a sound film: In "Atlantic", he played a musician who sits at the piano when the ship starts sinking. While singing the sad lines "Es wird ein Wein sein, und wir wer'n nimmer sein, es wird schöne Madeln geben, und wir wer'n nimmer leben...", he suddenly realizes the cruel truth of the lyrics and collapses.

In the early 1930s, Forst became a darling of the public with a couple of musical comedies. "Zwei Herzen im ¾ Takt" ("Two Hearts in Waltz Time") was his first collaboration with director Geza von Bolvary - six more were to follow until 1934. With one exception, all of these movies were written by Walter Reisch, who also offered him tailor-made roles for movies by directors such as Paul Martin ("Ein blonder Traum"/ "A Blonde"s Dream") and Karl Hartl ("Der Prinz von Arkadien"/ "The Prince from Arcadien"). "The piece of clothing that suited him best was the tailcoat – complete with cane and top hat, of course. He moved in it as if it were his second skin." (Buchka, 1980).


In 1933, Forst made his writer-director debut with "Leise flehen meine Lieder" ("Lover Divine"), a movie about Franz Schubert. His second film, "Maskerade" ("Masquerade in Vienna"), became a world-wide success and made Paula Wessely an instant movie star. For "Mazurka", he brought Pola Negri back to Germany. During the following years, Forst worked mostly in Vienna, where he set up his own film company in 1936. The "Willi Forst-Film-Produktion" opened a German branch in 1937 and was shut down in 1950.

In 1937, Forst became a member of TOBIS' supervisory board. From 1938 until 1945 he was a member of the supervisory board of the Wien Film GmbH. "When my homeland was occupied by the Nazis, my work turned into a silent protest. It sounds bizarre, but it is the truth. My most "Austrian" films were made during a time when Austria had ceased to exist. I gave people what they wanted most of all: oblivion, joy… My movies seemed to be from a time when charm, noblesse, tenderness and gallantry were still crucial elements." (Forst, 1963).


His role models were Ernst Lubitsch and René Clair; beneath the cheerful surface of his Viennese movies lies the knowledge that this era is history. "Bel Ami" (1939), based on the novel by Guy de Maupassant, turned out to be his most popular film. The movie, in which he also starred as the eponymous hero, is connected with his name until today.

After a long preparation phase, Forst started shooting "Wiener Mädeln" ("Young Girls of Vienna") in 1944 in Prague, hoping to produce the first German postwar movie. When the premiere took place in 1949, however, the movie flopped at the box office, as did Forst's following works, which resembled his earlier films.

In 1951, his movie "Die Sünderin" ("The Story of a Sinner") became "the biggest scandal in postwar German cinema" (Hembus/Bandmann). Churches attacked the film because of a brief scene in which Hildegard Knef posed naked in front of a painter, and because the movie allegedly glorified suicide. The movie provoked protest demonstrations and was banned in several cities. Nonetheless (or because of this), it went on to become a huge box-office success.

Forst"s last movie was programmatically titled "Wien, Du Stadt meiner Träume" ("Vienna, City of My Dreams", 1957). After that, he retired from the film business: "My style is no longer in demand. I exit, somewhat damaged, yet in proud greatness à la Garbo. It is better to leave, then to be forced to leave."

He and his wife Melanie, whom he had married in 1934, lived in Brissago (Ticino, Switzerland). Melanie died in 1973, four years later Forst relocated to Vienna. In the same year, he refused to participate in an episode of the TV show "Sterne, die vorüberzogen" that was dedicated to him.

On August 11, 1980, Willi Forst died in Vienna after an operation of the bladder.

Filmography

1957 Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume
Director, Screenplay
 
1957 Die unentschuldigte Stunde
Director, Screenplay
 
1956 Kaiserjäger
Director
 
1955 Le chemin du paradis
Creative supervisor
 
1955 Die Drei von der Tankstelle
Creative supervisor, Producer
 
1954/1955 Ein Mann vergißt die Liebe
Cast
 
1954 Weg in die Vergangenheit
Cast
 
1954 Kabarett
Director, Screenplay
 
1954 Bei Dir war es immer so schön
Cast
 
1952 Im weissen Rössl
Director
 
1952 Alle kann ich nicht heiraten
Story
 
1951 Es geschehen noch Wunder
Cast, Director, Screenplay
 
1950 Die Sünderin
Director
 
1949 Die Stimme Österreichs
Producer
 
1948 Das Kuckucksei
Producer
 
1948 Die Frau am Weg
Producer
 
1947/1948 Leckerbissen
Participation
 
1947 Der Hofrat Geiger
Producer
 
1944-1945/1949 Wiener Mädeln
Cast, Director, Screenplay, Producer
 
1943/1944 Hundstage
Producer
 
1942/1943 Frauen sind keine Engel
Director, Producer
 
1941/1942 Wiener Blut
Director
 
1940 Operette
Cast, Director, Screenplay, Producer
 
1939 Ich bin Sebastian Ott
Cast, Director, Producer
 
1938/1939 Bel Ami. Der Liebling schöner Frauen
Cast, Director, Screenplay
 
1937/1938 Es leuchten die Sterne
Cast
 
1937 Serenade
Director, Screenplay, Producer
 
1937 Kapriolen
Screenplay, Producer
 
1936 Burgtheater
Director, Screenplay, Vocals, Producer
 
1936 Allotria
Director, Screenplay
 
1935 Mazurka
Director
 
1935 Königswalzer
Cast
 
1935 Escapade
Screenplay
 
1934 So endete eine Liebe
Cast
 
1934 The Unfinished Symphony
Director, Screenplay
 
1934 Maskerade
Director, Screenplay
 
1933/1934 Ich kenn' Dich nicht und liebe Dich
Cast
 
1933 Ihre Durchlaucht, die Verkäuferin
Cast
 
1933 Leise flehen meine Lieder
Director, Screenplay
 
1932/1933 Brennendes Geheimnis
Cast
 
1932 Ein blonder Traum
Cast
 
1932 Der Prinz von Arkadien
Cast
 
1931/1932 Peter Voß, der Millionendieb
Cast
 
1931/1932 So ein Mädel vergißt man nicht
Cast
 
1931 Der Raub der Mona Lisa
Cast
 
1930/1931 Die lustigen Weiber von Wien
Cast
 
1930 Das Lied ist aus
Cast
 
1930 Ein Burschenlied aus Heidelberg
Cast
 
1930 Ein Tango für Dich
Cast
 
1930 Der Herr auf Bestellung
Cast
 
1929/1930 Zwei Herzen im 3/4 Takt
Cast
 
1929 Katharina Knie
Cast
 
1929 Atlantik
Cast
 
1929 Der Sträfling aus Stambul
Cast
 
1929 Gefahren der Brautzeit
Cast
 
1929 Die weißen Rosen von Ravensberg
Cast
 
1928/1929 Die Frau, die jeder liebt, bist Du
Cast
 
1928/1929 Fräulein Fähnrich
Cast
 
1928/1929 Liebfraumilch
Cast
 
1928 Ein Tag Film
Cast
 
1928 Die blaue Maus
Cast
 
1928 Unfug der Liebe
Cast
 
1928 Die lustigen Vagabunden
Cast
 
1928 Ein besserer Herr
Cast
 
1927/1928 Amor auf Ski
Cast
 
1927 Café Electric
Cast
 
1927 Die 3 Niemandskinder
Cast
 
1927 Die elf Teufel
Cast
 
1924 Strandgut
Cast
 
1922/1923 Lieb' mich und die Welt ist mein
Cast
 
1922 Oh, du lieber Augustin
Cast
 
1920 Der Wegweiser
Cast
 
1919 Der letzte Knopf
Cast
 

Overview

Literature

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