Willy Fritsch

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Willy Fritsch 1927 on a photograph by Alexander Binder
Willy Fritsch with signature. Photography by Alexander Binder

Willy Fritsch , born as Wilhelm Egon Fritz Fritsch (born January 27, 1901 in Kattowitz , † July 13, 1973 in Hamburg ), was a German actor and singer. From 1921 to 1964 he played in almost 130 films and was at times one of the most popular film stars in Germany.



Willy Fritsch was the only son of the owner of the Katowice machine factory Fritsch & Brattig, Lothar Fritsch. After the company went bankrupt, his parents moved with him to Berlin in 1912 , where his father had worked as a works manager at Siemens since 1910 . Willy Fritsch began an apprenticeship as a mechanic there in 1915, but broke it off. After working as an assistant at the Berlin district court, he had small assignments as an extra in the choir of the Great Theater .


In 1919 Willy Fritsch took private acting lessons at the Max-Reinhardt-Schule and soon got smaller roles at the Deutsches Theater , where he was responsible for the second cast together with Marlene Dietrich (e.g. in Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening ). In 1920 he also began making films. Three years later he had his first big box office success with the Swedish-German co-production Seine Frau, die Unbekannte . Supported by the producer Erich Pommer and a full-time actor at Ufa since 1923 , he was henceforth mainly used in comedies as a young, elegant charmer and lover alongside famous colleagues of his time such as Olga Chekhova , Ossi Oswalda or Lil Dagover .

In 1925 he achieved international recognition for the first time with his leading role in the silent operetta film Ein Waltzraum by Ludwig Berger . She brought him an offer from United Artists , which he turned down due to a lack of English skills. Thanks to various silent films distributed in the USA via the Parufamet agreement, Fritsch remained a household name among American cinema viewers. In this way, he aroused the business interest of internationally successful directors such as Fritz Lang , whose films Spione (1928) and Woman in the Moon (1929), as the main actor, not only enabled Fritsch to do the balancing act in serious roles in the meantime, but also to his ultimate breakthrough as in demand Movie actors contributed.

In 1929 Willy Fritsch spoke the first sentence of the German sound film in Melodie des Herzens : "I'm saving on a horse." After the overwhelming box-office success of the musical comedy Liebeswalzer (1930), he formed the "dream couple of German film" with Lilian Harvey joint films), but often shot with Käthe von Nagy (6 films) and took singing lessons. In the following years, many of the songs in his films penned by well-known composers such as Werner Richard Heymann or Friedrich Holländer became well-known and successful hits like A friend, a good friend or a darling, my heart lets you greet ( Die Drei von der Gasstelle , 1930) , I let 'me my body black Brush ( burglar , 1930), I wish I were a chicken ( Glückskinder , 1936) or I'm dancing with you into heaven ( seven slaps , 1937). He also starred in Her Highness Orders (1931) and A Blonde Dream (1932), each based on a script by Billy Wilder .

Towards the end of the Weimar Republic , Fritsch was one of the busiest and best-paid German film stars. His extraordinary popularity in many European countries culminated in the composition of the coffee shop I am in love with Willy Fritsch (1931).


After the National Socialist seizure of power , Willy Fritsch was able to continue his career in Germany and, under the direction of Reinhold Schünzel , shot the satirical comedy Amphitryon , which he always called his personal favorite film, in 1935 , followed by the film Glückskinder (1936), an adaptation of Frank Capra's It Happened One night . His fees have now reached record highs. In 1937 he married the artistic dancer Dinah Grace , with whom he had sons Michael and Thomas Fritsch (the latter also an actor).

Under pressure from his local association he became a member of the NSDAP , but remained apolitical in the films - with two exceptions (the propaganda films Attack on Baku , 1942, and Junge Adler , 1944). As a party member, he was appointed an honorary member of the Comradeship of German Artists and on the advisory board of the Reich Film Department, but was not entrusted with further tasks due to his lack of commitment. In August 1944, at the end of the Second World War , Goebbels added him to the God-gifted list of actors he needed for film production, with Fritsch being exempted from military service.

In 1939 his collaboration with Lilian Harvey ended with the film Woman at the wheel because she emigrated to France. Shortly afterwards, he starred alongside Marika Rökk in the first German color film Women Are Better Diplomats (1940) and was generally cast again for costume films from 1940 onwards. In the successful film Wiener Blut (1942), based on early sound film operettas and produced in Vienna , Fritsch took on the third leading role alongside Theo Lingen and Hans Moser under the direction of Willi Forst . Together with Hertha Feiler , he also played in the comedy Der kleine Grenzverkehr based on a novel by Erich Kästner , who also wrote the script for this film under a pseudonym. The actor spent the last months of the war in Prague, where he stood in front of the camera with Johannes Heesters for the film Die Fledermaus and, despite his party affiliation, was monitored by the Gestapo for "political unreliability" .


Burial place for Dinah Grace and Willy Fritsch, Ohlsdorf cemetery

After the end of the war, Fritsch moved to Hamburg and in the late 1940s played in the satirical post-war productions Film Untitled (1947) alongside Hildegard Knef and Herrliche Zeiten (produced by Heinz Rühmann , screenplay Günter Neumann ), who won the Silver Laurel des David O. Selznick Prize as "best film in the German language that promotes international understanding". Subsequently, his roles changed more and more from lover to father like his part as Romy Schneider's father in her film debut in 1953, When the white lilacs bloom again . He also worked in some homeland films, including a. in the film Grün ist die Heide, which was awarded Bambi as the most commercially successful film of the 1951/1952 season .

With a leading role in 1958 based on a screenplay by Dieter Hildebrandt , the film Mit Eva began the sin began , which was supplemented by Francis Ford Coppola as his directorial debut with additional scenes in 1962 and re-released under the title The Bellboy And The Playgirls , Fritsch still came once in the cabaret subject. In addition to Peter Kraus , he was also in the then commercially very successful film What is Papa doing in Italy? (1961) can be seen. After the death of his wife (1963), however, he soon withdrew completely from film and the public. He made his last film with his son Thomas Fritsch in 1964 ( I learned that from dad ).

Willy Fritsch died of a heart attack at the age of 72 and was buried in the Ohlsdorf cemetery in Hamburg. He leaves a work of almost 130 films. His written estate is in the archive of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.



Willy Fritsch in a film costume. Photography by Alexander Binder

Silent films

Sound films

Television films

  • 1962: Heaven can wait (ORF)
  • 1964: Up and down (ZDF)

Discography (selection)

  • 1930: Darling, my heart sends my regards (Werner Richard Heymann / Robert Gilbert) from the Ufa sound film “The three from the gas station”, with Lilian Harvey and orchestra, Parlophone, B-12 266-I & Odeon No. O 2993 a
  • 1930: A friend, a good friend (Werner Richard Heymann / Robert Gilbert) ad the sound film “The three from the gas station”, with Oskar Karlweis, Heinz Rühmann and orchestra, Parlophone, B-12 266-II & Odeon, O 2993 b
  • 1930: I have my body painted black (music: Friedrich Hollaender / text: Robert Liebmann and Friedrich Hollaender) from the Ufaton film "Burglar", with orchestra under the direction of Kapellmeister Otto Dobrindt, Parlophone No. B 12410 II & Odeon No. O 11392 b
  • 1931: You secretly brought love into my house (Werner Richard Heymann / Robert Gilbert) from the Ufaton film operetta "Your Highness Command", with Lilian Harvey and orchestra under the direction of Kapellmeister Otto Dobrindt, Parlophone No. B. 12435 II & Odeon, O- 11 411 b
  • 1931: Heurigen song (That must be a piece of heaven) (Werner Richard Heymann / Robert Gilbert) from the Ufaton film operetta "Der Kongreß tanzt", with orchestra, parlophone, B 48 067-II & Odeon, O- 11 524 b
  • 1932: I'm looking for someone who belongs to me alone (Walter Jurmann / Fritz Rotter) from the Ufa sound film “A great idea”, with the original Ufa Jazz Orchestra, conductor: Hans Otto Borgmann, Parlophone No. B. 48188 -II
  • 1932: We no longer pay rent (Werner Richard Heymann / Robert Gilbert) from the sound film “A blonder Traum”, with Lilian Harvey, Willi Forst and orchestra, Parlophone No. B 47247 I & Odeon No. O-11684 b
  • 1932: When I go to my cinema on Sundays (Werner Richard Heymann / Robert Gilbert) from the Ufa sound film “I by day and you by night”, with orchestra, parlophone, B 47 330-I & Odeon, O-11 751 a
  • 1935: A thousand times in dreams I was with you (Franz Doelle / Charles Amberg) from the Ufa sound film “Amphitryon”, with orchestra, Odeon, O- 25 405 a
  • 1936: I wish I was a chicken (Peter Kreuder / Hans Fritz Beckmann) from the Ufa sound film “Glückskinder”, with Lilian Harvey and the Odeon dance orchestra, Odeon No. O 25802 b
  • 1937: I dance with you into heaven (Friedrich Schröder / Hans Fritz Beckmann) from the Ufa sound film "Sieben Ohrfeigen", with Lilian Harvey and the Parlophone Dance Orchestra, conductor: Friedrich Schröder, Parlophone No. B 49967-II
  • 1937: Chinamann * (music: F. Schröder / text: HF Beckmann) from the Ufa sound film: "Seven Slaps", with Lilian Harvey and the Odeon dance orchestra, Odeon No. O-25903
  • 1939: Why doesn't Adelheid have an evening for me (Harald Böhmelt / Richard Busch) from the Ufa sound film “Woman at the wheel”, with Odeon dance orchestra, conductor: Harald Böhmelt, Odeon No. O-26320 b
  • 1941: When a young man comes (Franz Grothe / Willy Dehmel) from the Ufa sound film “Women are better diplomats”, with orchestra, conductor: Franz Grothe, Odeon O-26370 a
  • 1943: I'm happy when it's Sunday again (W. Bochmann / E. Knauf) with the Ufa-Filmorchester, Odeon, O- 26 555 b

Television documentaries

  • 1969: Star under the stars - Willy Fritsch. Director: Hans Borgelt. First German Television (HR)
  • 1977: Stars That Passed By. Director: Herman Weigel. First German television (WDR)


  • Heike Goldbach: A firework of charm - Willy Fritsch. The Ufa actor. About a great film career in changeable times . tredition, Hamburg 2017. ISBN 978-3-7439-1290-8

Web links

Commons : Willy Fritsch  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gert von Zitzewitz, Fritz Paul & Siegfried Schulz, © July 22, 1931, Ufaton Verlags GmbH, Berlin 19794
  2. Interview with Willy Fritsch on his 60th birthday. NDR, accessed on August 11, 2013 .
  3. ^ Ernst Klee : The culture lexicon for the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-10-039326-5 , p. 166.
  4. Heike Goldbach: A firework of charm. Willy Fritsch. The Ufa actor. About a great film career in changeable times. tredition, Hamburg 2017, p. 293.
  5. Glorious times. In: filmportal.de . German Film Institute , accessed October 8, 2016 .
  6. knerger.de: The grave of Willy Fritsch
  7. Willy Fritsch Archive inventory overview on the website of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.