Photography by Alexander Binder, about 1927
|Born||Wilhelm Egon Fritz Fritsch
27 January 1901
Kattowitz, German Empire
|Died||13 July 1973
Hamburg, West Germany
|Spouse(s)||Dinah Grace (d. 1963)|
He was born Wilhelm Egon Fritz Fritsch, the son of a factory owner in Kattowitz (present-day Katowice) in the Prussian province of Silesia. After the bankruptcy of his father in 1912, the family moved to Berlin, where Fritsch sr. worked as an employee of the Siemens-Schuckert company. Young Willy originally planned an apprenticeship as a mechanic, but soon resorted to the occupation as an extra at the Großes Schauspielhaus theatre.
From 1919 he attended Max Reinhardt's drama school at the Deutsches Theater, where he debuted with small roles, and made his feature debut in films as a supporting player in 1921's Miß Venus. Fritsch remained a popular juvenile figure in films and the theater, but his real success came after being paired with Lilian Harvey in 1928, when they appeared regularly together in UFA movies like Der Kongreß tanzt (Congress Dances) by Erik Charell, released every year thereafter until Harvey's emigration in 1939.
Though he had joined the NSDAP, Fritsch tried to avoid getting involved in Nazi propaganda (except for his appearance in the 1944 aviator movie Junge Adler which earned him an entry on Goebbels' Gottbegnadeten list) and managed to survive the Hitler era without any loss of prestige. He continued to appear on stage and in movies like Wenn der weiße Flieder wieder blüht (When the White Lilacs Bloom Again) side by side with young Romy Schneider; his final film was 1964's I Learned It from Father (Das hab' ich von Papa gelernt) directed by Axel von Ambesser, in which he performed together with his son, actor Thomas Fritsch.
- Traumbus (1979)
- Rich and Respectable (1976)
- Die Kleine mit dem süßen Po (1975)
- Venus Raiders (1974)
- Cutting Loose at the Wolfgangsee (1972)
- Einer spinnt immer (1971)
- Elisabeth von Österreich (1971)
- Fall Regine Krause (1970)
In Popular Media
In Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, Lilian Harvey's duet with Willy Fritsch from the 1936 film "Glückskinder", Ich wollt' ich wär ein Huhn ("I wish I was a chicken") can be heard playing on a phonograph in the basement scene "La Louisiane" as well as in the extended scene "Lunch With Goebbels", as Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) happily sings a portion of the song after deciding to hold a private screening of the film. After the screening, cinema owner, Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), under the alias "Emmanuelle Mimieux", comments on liking Lilian Harvey in the film — to which an irritated Goebbels angrily insists her name never be mentioned again in his presence. The song as performed by the Comedian Harmonists remains popular in Germany to date.