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18 December 2012

Fy og Bi

The Danish double-act Fy og Bi (Fyrtårnet og Bivognen) was the most famous comedy couple of the European silent cinema. Long Carl Schenstrom (1881 - 1942) and short Harald Madsen (1890 - 1949) became very popular in the 1920’s with their short slapstick films, known under such different names as Pat & Patachon, Long & Short or Watt & Half-Watt.

Pat & Patachon (Fy og Bi)
French postcard by Cinémagazine Edition, Paris, no. 426.

Pat & Patachon
Russian postcard.

Fy og Bi and their American organ
Dutch postcard. Fy og Bi were called Watt and Half Watt in the Netherlands. The Dutch cinema De Munt, Kalverstraat 226, Amsterdam, was thé cinema for their films in Amsterdam.

Pat & Patachon (Fy og Bi)
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 843/2. Photo: Hugo Engel-Produktion.

Pat & Patachon (Fy og Bi)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1053/3 1927-1928.

Vagabonds
In Germany and Austria, Fy og Bi were known as Pat & Patachon, in the Netherlands as Watt & Halfwatt, in France as Doublepatte et Patachon, in Great Britain as Long & Short, in Sweden as Telegrafstopen och Tilhengern and in the US as Ole & Aksel. Before Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis and Laurel & Hardy, Fy & Bi were the world's first internationally famous comedy team. In contrast to Laurel & Hardy, they were not thick and thin, but long and short. Fy og Bi also did not appear in suits and bowlers, but were vagabonds They ran around in torn clothes or used an old rope as a belt. Between 1921 and 1940 they appeared in 55 films, mostly in Germany.

Pat & Patachon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1052/1, 1927-1928.

Pat & Patachon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1052/2, 1927-1928.

Pat & Patachon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1052/5, 1927-1928.

Pat & Patachon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1471/1, 1927-1928.

Pat & Patachon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1471/2, 1927-1928.

Pat & Patachon (Fy og Bi)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1471/6, 1927-1928.

Circus
Carl Schenstrom (Fy) joined the Nordisk Film Company in Denmark in 1910. There he became acquainted with director Lau Lauritzen, with whom he moved over to Palladium in 1920. The following year, he and Harald Madsen (Bi) created Fyrtårnet og Bivognen in the short comedy Film, Flirt og forlovelse/The Film and the flirt (1921, Lau Lauritzen). Madsen had already worked as a circus artist since 1904. From 1917 he appeared in films of the Svensk Filmindustri and changed in 1920 to Palladium, where he worked as a comedian.

Pat & Patachon (Fy og Bi)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3117/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Süd-Film A.G.

Fy og Bi
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5340. Photo: Verleih Leopold Hauk.

Fy og Bi
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3828/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Lothar Stark-Film.

Fy og Bi
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3828/4, 1928-1929. Photo: Lothar Stark-Film.

Fy og Bi
German Postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4363/2, 1929-1930. Photo: Lothar Stark-Film.

Pat & Patachon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4463/3, 1929-1930. Photo: Lothar Stark Film. Still from Hallo! Afrika forude!/Hello! Africa ahead! (1929, Lau Lauritzen).

Murnau
After a series of 20 minutes films in Denmark, Carl Schenstrom and Harald Madsen branched out into features produced throughout Europe. Their first international performance was a small, very funny part as two drunken musicians in the German silent film classic Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau) starring Emil Jannings. By the late 1920's, their European popularity rivaled Charlie Chaplin's, being particular favorites of Soviet and German audiences. 1000 Worte Deutsch/1000 German Words (1930, Georg Jacoby) was their sound debut. The outbreak of the Second World War brought their film activities to a near halt. Their last film as a team was the Danish I gode gamle dage/In the Good, Old Days (1940, Johan Jacobsen). Madsens’s health was affected by protracted illnesses. The circus he founded in later years went bust. He became afraid that the floodlight of the film studios would affect his health which made it difficult to shoot films with him. After Carl Schenstrom died in 1947, Harald Madsen tried to revive the legendary duo with a new partner, Carl Reinholdz, but he died the following year at the age of 59.


The famous scene from Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924). Source: Kinonik (YouTube).


Pat & Patachon in Hr. Tell og søn/William Tell and Son (1930, Lau Lauritzen). Source: Panskeptic (YouTube).


Pat & Patachon in scene from an unknown film. Source: Dermeister1A (YouTube).

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia and IMDb.

4 comments:

COCAMIA said...

Wow! I did not know of this comedy duo! I love slapstick!

Bob of Holland said...

It's a pity, that their films are never on TV here. The fragment from Der letzte Mann is so good. I love their postcards too. Thanks for stopping by, Cocamia.

Bob of Holland said...

Today, film historian and friend Egbert Barten mailed me (in Dutch):

"zat weer eens op je postkaarten-site te kijken en kwam terecht bij de Deense jongens (volgens Bram Reijnhoudt in hun eigen tijd populairder dan L&H). Toevallig (maar wat is toeval) zat ik vanmiddag in een stukje eigen (nog ongepubliceerde) tekst te lezen waar ik tegen kwam dat die Watt en Half-watt films ook in de Hongerwinter in de niet meer
verwarmde Amserdamse bioscopen nog gedraaid werden. Leuk toch?"

My translation:
"Was back again watching on your postcards site and ended up at the Danish boys (according to Bram Reijnhoudt they were in their own time more popular than Laurel & Hardy). By chance (but what's chance?) I read this afternoon in an old (yet unpublished) text of my own and found that during the last famine winter of WW II, the Watt & Half Watt (or Ole & Aksel as they were known in the USA) films were still running in the not heated Amsterdam cinemas. Nice, right?"

So, they helped hungry Dutch people during the winter by keeping them laughing. Nice? They were heroes! We demand a Watt & Half Watt series on Dutch TV :) Thanks, Egbert for your information.

Bunched Undies said...

Wonderful stuff. I think the train going by in the archery scene was a matte shot. Very funny and clever. I'd never heard of these guys before. Thanks Bob