Ice skating comic Werner Groebli, better known as Mr. Frick of the Frick and Frack skating duo, died of natural causes April 14 in Zurich. He was 92.
Frick skated in more than 12,000 performances from 1939 to 1981, appeared in films and on television. The partners invented their stage names, which became a well known expression for two people who are closely linked, so as not to embarrass their families with their profession, which at the time was considered low class.
Born in Basel, Switzerland, he started his act with Hans Mauch, who was known as Frack and died in 1979.
After drawing attention for their comic antics at a Basel ice rink, they were booked in Europe, then came to Hollywood and were hired to perform with the Ice Follies by producers Shipstad & Johnson.
Frick told Time Magazine in 1939, “People think our skating is eccentric. It is not so. Any figure skater should be able to do a serious spread eagle asleep. It becomes comedy when you do odd things with your body while the spread eagle is going on. We use our brains, nerve control and concentration.” Frick invented the “cantilever,” making it look like he was defying gravity by bending over backward.
Frick & Frack were featured in two movies in the 1940s, “Lady Let’s Dance” and “Silver Skates.”
Mr. Frick, as he was known as a solo performer, appeared in TV specials with Peggy Fleming, Janet Lynn, Richard Dwyer. “Peanuts” cartoonist and ice skating buff Charles Schultz incorporated Frick into the comic strip and also featured him on Snoopy TV specials. He was also featured on TV programs such as “The Today Show” with Barbara Walters and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” One of his last appearances was with the Holiday on Ice in 1978 at Madison Square Gardens.
He is survived by a sister.