Czech filmworkers


Besides actors, we can't omit a page devoted to the best filmworkers (after all, who would be actors without them?). When one writes it, he must admit that it is a sad statistics; nearly all the greatest Czech filmworkers are either dead or very old and behind their creative top. Although currently there are several noticeable personalities among the young generation, today's Czech production - devoid of financial support from the state - is on a considerably lower level than in the past and in the near future I don't expect anybody, who would be able to match the great generation of Czech cinema of the 60's or the legendary serial authors of the 70's and 80's.


  • Martin "Mac" Frič

  • Otakar Vávra

  • Bořivoj Zeman

  • Karel Zeman

  • Karel Kachyňa

  • František Vláčil

  • Jindřich Polák

  • Ota Hoffman

  • Oldřich Lipský

  • Jiří Brdečka

  • Václav Vorlíček

  • Miloš Macourek

  • Jaroslav Dietl
  • Karel Svoboda
  • Ladislav Smoljak (see under Zdeněk Svěrák)
  • Jiří Menzel
  • Věra Chytilová
  • Vít Olmer
  • Jaroslav Soukup
  • Milan Šteindler
  • Jan Svěrák
  • Jan Hřebejk
  • Vladimír Michálek



Martin "Mac" Frič (1902-26.8. 1968)

director (comedies, dramas)



Martin "Mac" Frič was the most important figure of Czech direction during 30's and 40's and his enormously successful career extends as late as to 60's. His nickname "Mac" was given to him, when he was a child and couldn't pronounce his name. Later it quite well improved his director's charisma (although he himself said that he had never been any poser). As far as I know, his father was an inventor, but it is not clear to me, if this could be his real occupation. In any case, the surname "Frič" was very renowned; one of Frič's ancestors was Alberto Vojtěch Frič, a famous adventurer, who for a long time lived with American Indians in Paraguay, and another Frič was a prominent figure of Czech nationalism in mid 19th century.


During his youth Frič performed as a comedian in Prague cabarets and even in Bratislava, where he used a nickname "Mac Ferry". His life was allegedly very Bohemian, but he was lucky that it didn't get to the public. I don't know, how Frič later got to cinema, but at first he worked as a scene designer for movies of his father's friend, director Karel Lamač. Later he became a graphic of film posters and eventually began to make directional experiments on his own. During this time he married actress Marta Schöllerová, a big star of Czech silent movie, who was better known under a pseudonyme Susanne Marville. Even during the silent era, between 1928-1930, he made four movies, where his wife played a title role, and his start in the sound movie was a film adaptation of Hašek's Dobrý voják Švejk (Good Soldier Švejk, 1931). It was actually the second (and first sound) adaptation of Hašek's novel. It has survived incomplete. In 1931 he collaborated with Lamač on two comedies starring Vlasta Burian, On a jeho sestra (He And His Sister) and To neznáte Hadimršku (You Don't Know, Who Hadimrška Is). In 1932 he made his second solo movie, a very successful comedy - again starring Burian - called Anton Špelec, ostrostřelec (Anton Špelec, The Sharpshooter).


His further film attempts were also exceptionally successful and they are so numerous that I can't list them here all (39 movies between 1930-1940!). Among the most important ones I can't forget a film adaptation of Gogol's satire Revizor (The Inspector, 1933) with Burian in the title role and then a collaboration with Werich a Voskovec that resulted into socially critical satires Hej rup (Yo-Heave-1934) and Svět patří nám (The World Belongs To Us, 1937). By the way, during filming Hey rup one of stunts was unhappily killed by a steam-roller and Frič was conditionally sentenced to 2 years. In 1937 he made a successful comedy Mravnost nade vše (Morality Above All) starring Hugo Haas, and he also filmed several remarkable dramas like Lidé na kře (People On The Floe, 1937), a movie reflecting the depressive era of the economical crisis. However, his most known work of late 30's are student's comedies Škola, základ života (School, The Basis Of Life, 1938) and Cesta do hlubin študákovy duše (The Way Into The Depth Of The Student's Soul, 1939) followed by legendary Kristián starring Oldřich Nový and a crazy comedy Eva tropí hlouposti (Eva Plays The Fool, 1939), where he discoved comedial magic of Nataša Gollová. During early 40's he again used Nový and Gollová as the main guarantee of success for another good comedies, Hotel Modrá hvězda (The Hotel Blue Star, 1941) and Roztomilý člověk (The Lovely Man, 1941). He also further collaborated with Vlasta Burian. After 1945, his first post-war title Prstýnek (The Ring, 1945) won huge success and the same can be called about Pytlákova schovanka (The Poacher's Fosterdaughter, 1949), a parody of melodramas from the pre-war era. In 1951 Frič striked again with a historical comedy Císařův pekař (The Emperor's Baker) and in late 50's, he also made excursions into the fairy-tale world (e.g. Princezna se zlatou hvězdou/The Princess With The Golden Star, 1959). During 60's he mainly worked on short film medaillons of pre-war actors like Růžena Nasková (1960), Eman Fiala (1961) etc. His last movies worth mentioning were comedies Král králů (The King Of Kings, 1963) with Miloš Kopecký, and Přísně tajné premiéry (Top Secret Premieres, 1967).


As far as I counted it, Frič is an author or co-author of 72 full-length movies (not including 7 short movies), which is an awesome number. No other Czech director has got close to it so far. And now consider that when Frič died, he was only 66 years old... In my opinion, he was undoubtedly one of the best and most fertile directors that Czech cinema has ever had. His works, especially comedies from late 30's and early 40's, frequently return on TV and still belong to the best that Czech cinema has produced.




Jindřich Polák (5.5. 1925 - 22.8. 2003)

director (sci-fi, criminal dramas, fantastic movies for children)



Jindřich Polák is one of the best directors that Czech cinema has ever had. Unfortunately, I am writing this biography several days after he unexpectedly died.


Polák was born in Prague. As a child he loved puppet show and made performances for his friends. During WW II he worked as a projector in a movie house and in 1946 he became an assistant of Otakar Vávra at the Barrandov Studios. He also collaborated with TV since its beginning in 1953 and together with Zdeněk Podskalský prepared programmes for children. However, his first full-length picture was an adventurous story with criminal plot Smrt v sedle (The Death in the Saddle, 1958) that belongs to the best Czech movies in this genre until now. After another similar title Páté oddělení (The Fifth Department, 1960) that served to the communistic propaganda, he eventually got to genres that he liked most: sci-fi and fantastic movies for children. His sci-fi drama Ikarie XB-1 (1963) became a source of inspiration even for Western filmworkers. In the same time he collaborated on a TV serial for children called Klaun Ferdinand that was largely filmed in Eastern Germany. Here Polák also began his lifelong collaboration with Ota Hoffman, his "court" screenwriter.


During the 60's he again made an excursion into criminal genre, but with inconsistent result. His best work of this time was undoubtedly a military drama Nebeští jezdci (The Sky Riders, 1968) about Czechoslovak pilots in the Great Britain. This "politically unacceptable" movie ended in tresor for 20 years. One year later (1969) he started to shoot perhaps his most famous TV serial - Pan Tau (Mr. Tau) that later got more than 50 parts. The success of this serial began his collaboration with German producers that continued even later.


In 1977 he directed another legandary sci-fi movie, a fantastic comedy Zítra ráno vstanu a opařím se čajem (Tomorrow In The Morning I Will Wake Up And Scald Myself With Tea) that probably wasn't unnoticed by the authors of Back To The Future. Two years later (1979) he filmed a criminal drama Smrt stopařek (The Death Of Hitchhikers) that was based on a true story about a murderer, who raped and killed two schoolgirls. In 1980 Polák and Hoffman returned back to making movies for children - a TV serial about little Lucie and her plasticine friends was again very successful. Between 1981-1983 he created another serial that could be called legendary - Návštěvníci (The Visitors, 1983) about four "visitors" from the future, who are looking for a lost theory of young genius Adam Bernau. Again, it was filmed in collaboration with Western Germany. As Polák once said, it was his most beloved work and he was very pleased that it got fans even abroad (see this link for example).


The last remarkable work of Jindřich Polák came into being in 1986 - it was a fantastic serial for children called Chobotnice z druhého patra (The Octopuses From The 3rd Ground). Again, Polák and Hoffman used similar plasticine figures like in the serial about Lucie. Polák's serial career then virtually ended, because his friend Hoffman had died. Yet in the beginning of the 90's he collaborated on fairy-tales about little Kačenka (1992), who plays with ghosts, and his last work was an animated serial Bubu a Filip (Bubu And Filip).


In the end of his life Polák was seriously ill and after an operation of spin he ended on a wheel-chair. Despite that he planned a travelling retrospective show of his best works that was to continue in Germany or Austria. And in several weeks he was to get a prize for his lifelong work at the comedy festival in Nové Město. With him another creator of the "Czechoslovak serial culture" of the 70's and 80's has departed forever.




Miloš Macourek (2.12. 1926 - 30.9. 2002)

screenwriter (crazy sci-fi comedies, fairy-tales and fantastic movies for children)



Miloš Macourek was perhaps the best Czech screenwriter of all time. His name is tied with so many excellent projects that one can't believe it. He was a man with incredible fancy that he primarily put into sci-fi comedies, fantastic movies for children and animated fairy-tales.

He was born in Kroměříž (middle Moravia) in a lawyer's family. For his parents he was "the black sheep" of the family, because he didn't finish his study at high school (interrupted during WW II due to the closing of the school) and in 1946 he went away to Prague, where he made living by "quiant ways", especially by writing poems. In 1959 he allegedly started to write theatre plays in the theatre Divadlo na zábradlí. Here he also collaborated with Václav Havel. In the beginning of the 60's he definitively decided to left "serious art" and began to work at the Barrandov Studios, where he worked as a dramaturgist. Then he also started to write screenplays for animated movies and later for full-length pictures. For example, he helped the "king of Czech comedy", director Oldřich Lipský, in correcting a screenplay to a fantastic comedy Muž z prvního století (The Man From The First Century, 1961), which began their later successful collaboration.

However, his career of a screenwriter really began as late as he met beginning director Václav Vorlíček. Sources say that it happened during a way in a train, when they travelled to the film festival in Zlín. Their first "team work" was a fantastic parody on comics stories called Kdo chce zabít Jessii? (Who Wants To Kill Jessie?, 1966). The movie had such an international reception that they were even invited to New York, where they were to prepare an American remake. However, the plans failed due to the well-known events in Czechoslovakia 1968. During the same time Macourek continued in his fertile collaboration with Oldřich Lipský. In 1966 he wrote a screenplay to Lipský's bizarre comedy Happy End that was shot backwards, and in 1970 to another Lipský's comedy Zabil jsem Einsteina, pánové (I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen). Although these titles are quite original, they don't belong to their best works.

The top of Macourek's comedial collaboration with Vorlíček came in 1970, when they created an unforgettable fantastic comedy Pane, vy jste vdova (Mister, You Are A Widow). One year later they stroke again, this time with a humorous fairy-tale Dívka na koštěti (The Girl On The Broom). Thanks to the success of this title they got a financial offer from German producers that enabled them to realize another future projects. In the meantime Macourek again collaborated with Lipský on a parody of gangster's movies Čtyři vraždy stačí, drahoušku (Four Murders Are Enough, Darling, 1970) that is undoubtedly their best common work. For this movie they adopted a serious criminal novel of Yugoslavian author Nenad Brixi. (Rumour has that when Brixi found out, what they had done of his serious novel, he got immensely upset.) In 1972 Macourek wrote a screenplay to Lipský's comedy from circus' enviroment Šest medvědů s Cibulkou (Six Bears With Cibulka). Probably the second best comedy of Macourek & Vorlíček after the "Widow" is Jak utopit doktora Mráčka (How To Drown Dr. Mráček, 1974), where they used young grace of Libuše Šafránková. Later they continued with Což takhle dát si špenát? (What About Taking Spinage?, 1977), which was again a crazy fantastic comedy about an enlarging machine, whose functioning on live objects is contra-indicated by certain acids contained in spinage. In the same year Jindřich Polák adopted Macourek's screenplay based on a sci-fi novel of Josef Nesvadba for his crazy sci-fi comedy Zítra ráno vstanu a opařím se čajem (Tomorrow In The Morning I Will Wake Up And Scald Myself With Tea).

In the end of the 70's Macourek and Vorlíček used money from the German TV "WDR" for a legendary fairy-tale serial Arabela. This was another top of their collaboration and I think that later they have never overcome it. Yet I must also mention a very good fairy-tale serial called Létající Čestmír (The Flying Čestmír/Der Fliegende Ferdinand, 1984) and another good serial Křeček v noční košili (Hamster In The Night Shirt, 1987). In 1984 Macourek finished a screenplay to Bambinot, a sci-fi mini series about a machine producing artifical children. Rumour has that originally the serial was to be directed by Vorlíček, but German producers eventually chose Oldřich Dudek, who won big reputation thanks to his "Nemocnice".

In the end of the 70's Macourek strongly involved himself in animated movie and together with painter Adolf Born he created figures of two pupils, Mach a Šebestová (Max And Sally), who are endowed by a magic receiver that enables them to enjoy various adventures. I think that this may be the best Czech animated serial of all-time.

During the 90's Macourek hasn't written anything remarkable. In fact, his and Vorlíček's attempt to "revive" Arabela ended as a failure. Many people say that Arabela II (1994) was the biggest (and the only real) failure in Macourek's life. The peak of Vorlíček's creativity was also away, which was confirmed by their later fairy-tale excursions (e.g. Pták Ohnivák/The Firebird 1996). Macourek thus also wrote screenplays for other directors, especially for F. A. Brabec (Král Ubu/The King Ubu, 1996; Kytice/The Wild Flowers, 2001). The last common work of Macourek and Vorlíček was a film version of their animated serial about Mach and Šebestová called Mach, Šebestová a kouzelné sluchátko (Max, Sally, And A Magic Receiver, 2001). According to several sources, Macourek prepared two new screenplays of film parodies, but he wasn't able to finish it. During an air return from the filming of Mach and Šebestová in China (2000) he suffered from embolic problems and a subsequent investigation accidentally uncovered progressing cancer. He went through several operations, but eventually refused the last one and reconciled with his fate.




Karel Svoboda (19.12. 1938-28.1. 2008)

music composer


Karel Svoboda was born in Prague. His father was a taylor and lost all his property due to communistic nationalization (1948). When Svoboda  was 14 years old, his mother collected all remaining money and bought a piano in a hope that she would give some musical education to him and his brother Jiří. Although Karel later began to study medicine (a dental assistant), his passion for music was so strong that he left the study and devoted all his time to a music group Mefisto, where he then played. During the 60's they earned money by playing in Prague coffees and later in the theatre Rokoko. Here Svoboda collaborated with young tailented singers like Marta Kubišová, Václav Neckář or Helena Vondráčková. As Svoboda says, he was a self-mademan with no special music education, but his songs were very successful and his career raised. In 1966 he composed a legendary song Stín katedrál (The Shadow of Cathedrals) for Václav Neckář and Helena Vondráčková. In 1968 he wrote a song Vzdálený hlas (A Far Voice), with which Helena Vondráčková won a music festival in Rio de Janeiro. One year later, Lady Carneval, a song for Karel Gott, won the same festival again, and this meant a big break in Svoboda's life. His personal favourite became Karel Gott (until today Svoboda has composed about 80 songs for him) and together they gradually began to conquer the West German music market. In 1973 they both scored with a song Kdepak ty ptáčku hnízdo máš? (Bird, Where Do You Have Your Nest?) and music to the well-known fairy-taile Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Three Nuts For Cinderella, 1973). Then Svoboda started his very successful career in West Germany, where he composed music to tens various serials and movies (especially animated serials for children). The most known of his works is undoubtedly the music to the famous German animated serial Die Biene Maja (Maya, the Bee, 1976), where Karel Gott sang the title song. During the 70's he also wrote songs for Czech movies. First, I can't forget the beautiful medieval music in Noc na Karlštejně (A Night At The Karlštejn Castle, 1973). The title song of this movie, Lásko má, já stůňu (My Love, I Am Sick) sung by Helena Vondráčková, belongs to his greatest hits (although one critic said that it is a copy of some medieval composition; it's quite all the same to me, because the most important thing is that such a beautiful song came into being). From other titles I must especially list another Vorlíček's fairy-tale Jak se budí princezny (How Princesses Can Be Waken Up, 1977) with a beatiful song for Helena Vondráčková, Vorlíček's comedy Což takhle dát si špenát? (What About Taking Spinage?, 1977), Karel Zeman's animated movie Pohádka o Honzíkovi a Mařence (The Fairy-tale About Honzík And Mařenka, 1980) with another nice song for Helena Vondráčková, music to Polák's sci-fi serial Návštěvníci (The Visitors, 1983) or to Vorlíček's sci-fi serial for children Létající Čestmír (The Flying Čestmír, 1984). However, in late 80's he finished music to TV serials Cirkus Humberto (Circus Humberto) and Dobrodružství kriminalistiky (The Adventures Of Criminology)...and then stopped composing for seven years. I don't know, what was behind this break; one newspaper wrote that Svoboda stood as a candidate for the Czechoslovak parliament. In mid 90's he again returned to the music world, but this time he began to incline to composing music for musicals, which is - as he himself doesn't conceal - a more earning work than composing single songs. (By the way, his musical Dracula was recently very successful in South Korea, where it was visited by 800 000 spectators.) Despite that, he composed a couple of big hits for Czech singers (e.g. Lucie Bílá, Karel Gott) and "created" several new pop stars like Daniel Hůlka.

Svoboda's personal life wasn't so happy like his professional career. In 1969 he married his first wife, a model girl Hana Bohatová, but she died in 1992. With her he has two children. In 1995 he married Vendula Horová, who was 33 years younger. They had one daughter called Klára, but she died of leucemia in 2000. "To go on is an ability that you don't have to be born with. The destiny can enforce it to you," he said. Svoboda himself also hazarded with his own life. In summer 2002 he miraculously survived a serious traffic accident and in November 2003, during a birthday celebration, he collapsed from overwork. This suggests that he must have been very busy and various sources confirm it. He planned several new musicals (Noc na Karlštejně, Rasputin, Naschmarkt) and an opera for an operatic singer Eva Urbanová. Unfortunately, during recent years he suffered from depressions that he hadn't cured properly. Bad tongues also say that he was deceived by his wife (their marriage was strongly damaged by the death of their daughter, after all). She herself however proclaimed that he had deceived her with singer Leona Machálková.

In the evening of 28th January 2008, his wife was on some education training, and Svoboda was home alone. They spoke by phone, and they planned a common evening in their villa. But then something broke in Svoboda's mind, he took his revolver and shot himself to death in the garden of his house. The suicide virtually shattered the whole country. And not only this: The whole country subsequently watched passionate quarrels between Vendula Svobodová and Svoboda's close friends (including his son), who accused her that she was guilty of his death.

My personal opinion is that Svoboda was a real genius, who has composed one of the most beautiful musical pieces that I have ever heard. Perhaps he should have returned to his production of 70's and 80's again, because I haven't heard anything so spectacular from him recently. Theatre musicals are not my hobby.

YouTube is full of Svoboda's songs and compositions:





Milan Šteindler (12.4. 1957)

director, actor (comedies), TV comedian


Milan Šteindler is currently one of the most known personalities of Czech cinema, although he has made only three full-length movies. The reason of his popularity primarily lies in his versatile activities.

He was born in Prague and as a young boy, he was allegedly a "class clown". Together with his friend, future architect David Vávra, he arranged amateur theatre performances in the cellar of Vávra's grandmother and they also shot mute cartoons in the garden. Later they moved into a community centre in their city quarter, where they founded a theatre group called Sklep (The Cellar). After a leaving exam he worked in TV - at first as a property man and then he was raised to an assistant of director František Vláčil. In 1979 they received him at the film academy in Prague, where he studied direction. Here he met Halina Pawlowská, a heavy-weight daughter of an Ukrainian father, that later became his court screenwriter. Together they wrote screenplay to a comedy Můj hříšný muž (My Sinful Man, 1986), but the result was not too good, mainly due to uninventive direction. The first real success thus came in 1989, when Šteindler himself lead direction of a movie Vrať se do hrobu! (Go Back To The Grave!) based on Pawlowská's screenplay. This story of a sociologist in his thirties, who is pursuaded to make a sociological research among teenagers and pretends that he is their contemporary, won him big popularity and the movie belongs to the most popular Czech comedies until these days. At the same time Šteindler and his friends from Sklep got several actor's opportunities, from which I should especially list Chytilová's morality Kopytem sem, kopytem tam (With A Hoof About, 1988). Their biggest common success was a sketch Na brigádě (On A Voluntary Work) from a story movie Pražská pětka (The Prague Five, 1988), which was a film portrait of a production of five Prague little theatres. Na brigádě (a lovely parody on the communistic propaganda titles of the 50's) was undoubtedly the best piece of all five stories and Šteindler with his friends (Vávra, Hanák) gradually emerged as comedial stars. Their popularity reached its top during the 90's, when Šteindler and Vávra invented a popular satirical programme Česká soda (Czech soda) and Tomáš Hanák, their colleague from Sklep, became an actor's idol of women.

In 1994 Šteindler again joined Pawlowská and they produced a comedy Díky za každé nové ráno (Thanks For Every New Morning), where Pawlowská incorporated her own biographical memories. This title got the Czech Lion for the best Czech movie of the year and was awarded by various prizes abroad, but globally said, it is no miracle. In the second half of the 90's Šteindler mainly worked as a director of TV advertisement and further collaborated on Česká soda. He also appeared in a lot of minor, largely comedial roles (e.g. a policeman in Kolya, 1996 or an insidious businessman in a TV serial Život na zámku/The Life At The Castle). He says that this direction delay was caused by the fact that Pawlowská hasn't written anything for him. Since she later entirely turned to moderating talk-shows, he was forced to adapt a screenplay of a different author and filmed a drama Perníková věž (The Gingerbread Tower, 2001) that was devoted to a popular theme of his contemporaries (i.e. to drug addicts). In the meantime Česká soda ended and people often say that "Šteindler has been currently waiting for his best film". In 2004 he got a big serial role in Redakce (The Redaction).




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