This week we salute the Giornate del Cinema Muto (Silent Film Festival) in Pordenone, Italy, and we only post about stars whose films are shown on this year's festival. Today we present you smart German actor Gustav Fröhlich (1902 - 1987), who played Freder Fredersen, the young hero in Fritz Lang's silent classic Metropolis (1927). During the 1930's he became the fresh-faced gentleman in light comedies and musicals, and became one of the four most popular male stars of the German cinema during the Third Reich (with Willy Fritsch, Hans Albers and Heinz Rühmann). After the war he tried to escape from his standard roles as the charming gentleman playing a doomed painter in Die Sünderin (1951), but his effort went down in a scandal. In Pordenone he can be seen in the silent masterpiece Asphalt (1929).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1584/2, 1927-1938. Photo: Ufa.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3018/1, 1928-1929. Photo: M. v. Bucovich (Atelier K. Schenker).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4145/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Ufa.
Gustav Friedrich Fröhlich was born in Hannover, Germany in 1902 and he grew up by foster parents. His father was an engineer, and his family moved around western Germany a lot while he was growing up, living in cities like Wiesbaden and Wurzburg. He studied at the Homuth Realgymnasium Friedenau in Berlin. In 1919 he started his career as a trainee at a newspaper, but he spent his spare time as a emcee at local variety shows. He also wrote the dime novel Heinz Brandt, der Fremdenlegionär/Heinz Brandt, the Foreign Legionnaire. His film debut was a small role in a Dutch film produced in Germany, De bruut/The Brute (1922, Theo Frenkel) with Erna Morena and Adolphe Engers. He then played a secondary role as composer Franz Liszt in Paganini (1923, Heinz Goldberg) featuring Conrad Veidt. The following years he played in stage plays and in such films as Friesenblut (1925) opposite Jenny Jugo. Then Fröhlich landed his breakthrough role as Freder Fredersen in Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang) by chance. He was only scheduled to play one of the workmen but four weeks after the beginning he was discovered on the set by Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang's wife. Lang immediately cast him in the lead because of his striking good looks. A new star was born.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4293/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Ufa.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4551/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5196/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Ufa.
After Metropolis, Gustav Fröhlich typecast as the fresh-faced, naïve 'boy next door' in such silent films as Die elf Teufel/The Eleven Devils (1927, Zoltan Korda, Carl Boese) with Evelyn Holt, Heimkehr/Homecoming (1928, Joe May) opposite Lars Hanson, and Asphalt (1929, Joe May), in which he played a honest policeman who is seduced by a crook (Betty Amann). In 1930 Fröhlich was called to Hollywood by Warner Brothers to do German versions of American sound films like Kismet (1930, William Dieterle). Back in Germany, he soon was subscribed for Max Ophüls’ musical comedy Die verliebte Firma (1931) next to Lien Deyers, and for Robert Siodmak's crime drama Voruntersuchung (1931) with Albert Bassermann. He went on to play smart gentlemen in such lighthearted musicals and romances as Ich will nicht wissen, wer du bist/I Do Not Want to Know Who You Are (1932, Géza von Bolváry) with Liane Haid, and Was Frauen träumen/What Women Dream (1933, Géza von Bolváry), which was co-written by Billy Wilder. Because of his carefree attendance Fröhlich was seldom allowed to play other characters. One of his greatest successes was his part of the helpful and likeable policeman in Oberwachtmeister Schwenke (1935, Carl Froelich). He also directed films like Rakoczy-Marsch/Rakoczy march (1933, Gustav Fröhlich, Steve Sekely), Abenteuer eines jungen Herrn in Polen/Love and Alarm (1934), and after the war Wege im Zwielicht/Paths in Twilight (1948), Der Bagnosträfling/The Prisoner (1949) with Paul Dahlke, and the crime drama Die Lüge/The Lie (1950) with Otto Gebühr.
Dutch postcard by Jospe, no. 379. Photo: Remaco. Gitta Alpár and Gustav Fröhlich co-starred in Gitta entdeckt ihr Herz/Gitta Discovers Her Heart (1932, Carl Froelich).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7926/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Niedecken, St. Moritz.
Dutch postcard by JosPe, no. 279. Photo: Filma. Publicity still for Unter falscher Flagge/Under False Flagg (1932, Johannes Meyer) with Charlotte Susa.
Dutch postcard by JosPe, Arnhem, no. 384. Photo: City Film. Publicity still for Ich will nicht wissen, wer du bist/I Don't Want To Know Who You Are (1932, Géza von Bolváry).
Between 1931 and 1935 Gustav Fröhlich was married with Hungarian Opera star and actress Gitta Alpár. They had a daughter named Julika. From 1936 till 1938 he lived together with actress Lída Baarová, his costar in Barcarole (1935, Gerhard Lamprecht) and Leutnant Bobby, der Teufelskerl/A Devil of a Fellow (1935, Georg Jacoby). After losing Lída to Joseph Goebbels, Froelich had a fierce quarrel with him. There was an urban legend that the quarrel culminated in a slap in the face of the powerful and feared Propaganda-Minister, but Lída Baarova later denied this in her memoirs. In 1941 Fröhlich remarried with Maria Hajek. Since 1941 he had to serve for the Wehrmacht, interrupted by film engagements like Der Grosse König/The Great King (1942, Veit Harlan) starring Otto Gebühr as Prussian king Friedrich the Second.
Dutch Postcard by City-Film, no. 362.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6481/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Emelka. Publicity still for Gloria (1932, Hans Behrendt).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8772/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Willinger, Wien.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, nr. 7000/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Atelier Marion, Berlin.
After the war Gustav Fröhlich tried to escape from standard roles of the charming gentleman by playing a doomed painter in Die Sünderin/The Sinner (1951, Willi Forst). The effort went down in the chaos of the scandal caused by a brief nude performance by Hildegard Knef. He went on to play leads in light entertainment films including Haus des Lebens/House of Life (1952, Karl Hartl) with Cornell Borchers, and Die kleine Stadt will schlafen gehen/The Little Town Will Go to Sleep (1954, Hans H. König) with Jester Naefe. From the 1960’s on he had only a few TV film entrances, including a part in the comedy Laubenkolonie/Allotment area (1968, Heribert Wenk, Bertold Sakmann) with Paul Dahlke. He was more active in the theatre, a.o. for the Renaissance-Theater in Berlin and the Schauspielhaus in Zürich. In 1973 he was honoured with the Filmband in Gold. Ten years later, he published his autobiography Waren das Zeiten - Mein Film-Heldenleben/Those Were Times - My Life as a Film Hero (1983). His last public appearance was in 1986, when Giorgio Moroder presented his revised version of Metropolis. Gustav Fröhlich lived from 1956 on in Lugano, Switzerland. There he died in 1987 of a complication after surgery, at age 85. His wife Maria Hajek had passed away earlier that same year.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8383/1, 1933-1934.
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3537/1, 1941-1944. Photo: M P SS.
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3608/1. Photo: Adler Film.
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3703/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick/Ufa.
Sources: The Gustav Fröhlich Fan Page, Bruce Eder (Rovi), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia (English and German), and IMDb.