Photo: Courtesy of TV Barrandov
The description: Miloš Willig as Colonel Kalina in the series Thirty Cases of Major Zeman
PHOTO If he shone on stage in all genres, cinema and television have always given him a unique form. A serious and reliable gentleman in costume, on appearance, character and devotion to the party of which you will find no point. And in particular Colonel Vaclav Kalina in the Thirty Cases of Major Zeman series. You remember him?
Kalina became his most famous television character and seemed to be tailor-made for him. The actor himself never hid that he felt like a fish in water. “He is a man who went through the Spanish Civil War, a man who was later in a concentration camp, a man who is completely committed to the socialist establishment. I was not in Spain, but I I spent nine months in the guerrillas of Jan Hus. I am also a convinced communist. In other words – the figure of Colonel Kalina corresponds to me enormously, as they say, “he said. However, the theater was much more important in his career. Miloš Willig’s mottos were sobriety, balanced gestures, discipline of inner feelings and cultured expression. And the scope of his theatrical roles was huge, from dramas of Czech and world classics to modern repertoire.
With Libuše Havelková in the 1967 television drama The Strange End of Summer; photo courtesy of Czech Television – Přiba Mrázová
He didn’t care about tradition
He was born on January 21, 1921 in the romantic village of Velké Svatoňovice at the eastern end of the Krkonoše foothills, and his life was connected with acting from the very beginning. His father was Arnošt Willig, who for years played at the Horácký theater in Jihlava, and even after his retirement he did not do without his “sanctuary”, so he at least worked as an usher and doorman. Miloš’s two-year-old sister Lubomíra also lived on the same stage for decades, and her sister Dagmar also worked there as a prop. Miloš became the most famous of the family, but he originally went to a completely different field and started in a textile factory as a designer. During the Second World War, however, he found himself in the theater and went through several nomadic companies. He also received his first film offer, but declined to act in a German film.
Run away from the guerrillas
In 1943 he finally became a member of the ensemble of the Horácký Theater in Třebíč and performed in eleven productions in the first season. After the Czech theaters were closed by the Nazis, he did not escape full commitment and had to work on the construction of underground gasoline tanks. In time he managed to escape, and for the last nine months of the war Master Jan Hus fought in the guerrilla brigade. The group operated mainly in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands and was based on a twelve-member airdrop under the command of Red Army Captain Alexander Vasilyevich Fomin, which jumped into our territory on October 26, 1944. After the liberation , Milos returned to the highlands and worked for three seasons at the Horack Theater in Jihlava. There he also faced a major life decision in 1947.
With Jiří Holý in the TV detective show Měsíc s dýmkou, based on a short story by Hana Prošková; photo courtesy of Czech Television – Přiba Mrázová
“I should have decided if I would continue to be an actor or if I would become a member of the State Security”, he admitted in an interview which had dusted off the daily Blesk. “It just came to our knowledge at that time. I thought to myself: you’ve been doing this theater for many years and maybe quite decently. If something doesn’t work for you, they’ll write that you’ve acted badly, if you missed something in the movie, it needs to be refilmed and it’s good again, but if you do something wrong as a member of State Security, it won’t won’t let anything be removed. So I said, “Listen, guys, I prefer to play in a theater.” She was only nineteen when they got married, and their daughter Kateřina was soon born.
Per year and per day
In 1948 Miloš moved with part of the theater ensemble to Prague, where he co-founded the SK Neumann Theater (now Pod Palmovkou Theater) in Liben. Although the young woman and the child followed him, she felt abandoned in Prague, even though Miloš would have done his best to make up for it. In the end, she fell in love with a mutual friend, then still a doctor Josef Moučka. And so as soon as Miloš became a father, he lost his family and would have taken the divorce very hard. Kamila herself has openly admitted over time that she has sinned against him. “I was naive and stupid. ‘I’m so sorry I hurt him,’ she said.
lawyer Mayer in Otakar Vávra’s famous historical drama, The Witch’s Hammer; photo courtesy of Barrandov Film Studio
Shortly after arriving in Prague, Willig finally made his debut on the camera – director Martin Frič cast him as the young designer’s portrayal in the construction film Pětistovka. The team of conscious workers set out to bring a revolutionary motorcycle into production, but their efforts come with a number of oversights and misfortunes. The naïve, constructed film ranks critics as one of Frič’s weakest projects. In the 1950s, the roles of Willig from this “box” did not deviate, he exceptionally appeared in a more valuable project. His career was accompanied by the figures of principled and prudent men, whose character did not allow him to despise the personality of the actor. At the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, he began to play doctors, party officials or senior officers, but most often appeared on camera as a police investigator or member of the United Kingdom.
Some swear by it, others find a lot of truth in it, but a surprisingly large number of viewers are willing to watch Major Zeman’s cases over and over again. After 1989, it seemed that one of Czechoslovakia’s most expensive television projects (more than twenty million – editor’s note) would probably never return to the screens. Then a trading company was found that bravely brought director Jiří Sequens’ vast project to the light of God, and it almost became a new bestseller. In the beginning, young Zeman, Dr. Veselý and lawyer Kalina return together from the concentration camp, not knowing how their fates will intersect in the future. Milos Willig found himself in his Kalin. It was he who brought Zeman to collaborate with criminologists, and Zeman took him as a second father. In further work, Kalina already held a high position in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and conducted business with a special international conspiracy.
The Chairman of the Communist Party in the TV normalization drama Run Away, Don’t Run Away; photo courtesy of Barrandov Film Studio – Miroslav Mirvald
“Zeman” was a demanding commitment for Willig for the entire five-year period, so when it was added to his permanent work in the theater, he didn’t have much time for anything else. Nevertheless, he managed to star in several films. And especially in another successful series from screenwriter Jaroslav Dietl and director Evžen Sokolovský The Youngest of the Hamr Family, in which he played Blažek. During filming, however, he suffered a heart attack, likely due to his high workload. Then he was constantly struggling with heart problems, and this was reflected in his appearance. So, during the filming of the third series “Zeman”, even makeup artists did not have to try too hard to add an extra year to him. Although he finished filming, he did not see the premiere. He died on August 23, 1979, as did his Kalina series. Of heart failure, at fifty-eight and alone.
(sources: Wikipedia, Czech Film, CSFD, Blesk, FDB, Jihlava Horace Theatre, Czech Television, Czech Radio, National Theatre, Svetlana Witowska: Head Against the Wall)
Entered by: Adina Janovska