Czech actor, storyteller and author Vlastimil Brodsky died April 20, an apparent suicide. He was 81 and had suffered an incapacitating stroke over Easter.
Brodsky’s acting career spanned six decades and included more than 100 films and TV shows. He was beloved by generations of Czech children who recognized his voice from the popular nightly fairy-tale cartoons on Czech TV. He was known as the sad clown, with a hangdog face that belied a mischievous sense of comedy.
Brodsky was born in Hrosovany, Czechoslovakia, and studied acting under E.F. Burian, a seminal figure in Czech theater in the 1930s and 1940s. From 1948 to 1984, Brodsky was a member of the acclaimed Vinohrady Theater. He made his film debut in 1944, but his movie career truly took off in 1956, after which rarely a year passed without his appearance in one or more films.
He appeared in the some of best-known films of the famed Czech New Wave, including Jiri Menzel’s Oscar-winning 1966 pic “Closely Watched Trains” and Vojtech Jasny’s 1963 “Cassandra the Cat” and 1968 homage “All My Good Countrymen.”
He later worked with both directors again, in Menzel’s 1990 “Larks on a String” and in Jasny’s 1999 “Return to Paradise Lost.” Among his other films were “A Thousand Clarinets” (1964) and the Czech-German co-production, “When Grandfather Loved Rita Hayworth” (2001).
Brodsky was the subject of a full-length documentary film in 1999. His final film was “Autumn Spring” (“Babi leto”), for which he won the Czech Lion for best actor in March.
Brodsky received several international awards for acting as well. He won the Silver Bear in Berlin in 1975 for “Jacob the Liar,” the Golden Nymph at Monte Carlo for “Migrating Birds,” the Actor’s Mission award at the 1997 Art Film Festival for lifetime achievement, the 1998 Thalia Award in Prague for lifetime acting achievement.
Karlovy Vary Film Festival had recently completed negotiation with the actor to present him with a lifetime contribution award this summer. A spokeswoman for the festival said the award would be awarded posthumously, accompanied by screenings of “Autumn Spring” and “Jacob the Liar.”
Brodsky was married twice. He was divorced from his second wife, actress Jana Brejchova. He is survived by a daughter, actress Tereza Brodska, and a son, actor Marek Brodsky.