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Willi Forst Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (19)  | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (3)

Born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]
Died in Vienna, Austria  (complications following surgery)
Birth NameWilhelm Anton Frohs

Mini Bio (1)

Willi Forst was born on April 7, 1903 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary as Wilhelm Anton Frohs. He was an actor and director, known for Bel Ami (1939), Vienna Blood (1942) and Operette (1940). He was married to Melanie. He died on August 11, 1980 in Vienna, Austria.

Spouse (1)

Melanie (1934 - 1973) ( her death)

Trivia (19)

Twice caused controversy: the first time by arousing the ire of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels through his refusal to appear in the stridently anti-Semitic film Jud Süß (1940), the second time by angering conservative civic groups with a nude long shot of Hildegard Knef in The Sinner (1951).
Son of a porcelain painter. Started acting in regional theatres, then in Vienna and at the Berlin Metropoltheater in operettas and revues. Joined Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater in 1928. In films from 1920, often in villainous roles. Had a good voice, which contributed to him graduating to leading actor by the time sound arrived. Made his directing debut in 1933. Often contributed screenplays and acted in his own films. Had a reputation for visual style and detail in production design.
Uncle of Barbara Langbein.
With Atlantic (1929), his first sound film, he attracted much attention because of a scene where he sat at the piano and sang a song while the doomed ship was sinking.
He had comparatively little success after the war, with the exception of The Sinner (1951) (aka "The Sinner") starring Hildegard Knef, which caused a scandal because of the protests of the Roman Catholic church regarding the nudity in the film, the first in German-speaking cinema. The film eventually went on to attract an audience of seven million.
After the death of his wife in 1973 he lived a reclusive life in the Swiss canton of Tessin.
Together with the occupation of Austria he realized a string of movies which knew how to portray the spirit of Austria in an impressive way.
Considered one of Europe's important early sound directors.
He gave Senta Berger her first role.
The high point of his career was in the 1930s, when he produced a string of hit musical comedies.
His postwar films failed to achieve the levels of success of his prewar films. Im Weissen Rössl (1952), Weg in die Vergangenheit (1954), Ein Mann vergißt die Liebe (1955) and Vienna, City of My Dreams (1957) didn't revitalize his career, and in 1957 he left the film business, saying, "My style is no longer in demand: I go off, a little bit battered, but in proud greatness à la [Greta Garbo]. It is better to go than to be asked to go.".
Following the annexation of Austria in 1938 he was much courted by the Nazis, but succeeded in avoiding overt political statement, concentrating entirely on the opulent period musical entertainment for which he was famous and which was much in demand during World War II.
Worked his way up from playing small theaters to getting a contract with the prestigious Berliner Metropo-Theater for operettas and revues in 1925. In 1928 he secured an engagement in Max Reinhardt's "Deutsches Theater".
For Lover Divine (1933) he wrote the script (for the first time) in addition to directing.
He founded his own film company, Willi Forst-Film, in 1937 and considered a move to Hollywood the same year.
He achieved much success as an actor to German-speaking audiences, in the debonair Cary Grant mold, and as a director he became one of the significant forces in the musical/melodrama/comedy genre in the 1930s known as "Wiener Filme" ("Vienna Films").
His postwar films, with one exception, didn't do much for his career. The exception was The Sinner (1951), which was a box-office hit due to several factors--there was a small nude scene involving Hildegard Knef, which caused an uproar among conservative political and religious circles, and because of what was termed by some as its "glorifying" suicide.
He died of cancer in Vienna in 1980 and is buried in Neustift am Walde.
He began his career as an actor in amateur stage productions and in 1919 was hired by Teschen, despite the fact that he had no actual formal training as an actor.

Personal Quotes (1)

[on his involvement during WW II in making films under the control of the Nazi regime] I never wasted much thought on the kind of films I was making. They came about by themselves, born of my relief at no longer having to "reproduce," and of the growing pressure exerted by the Nazis. My native country [Austria] was occupied by the National Socialists, and my work became a silent protest. Grotesque though it may sound, it is true that I made my most Austrian films at a time when Austria had ceased to exist.

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