MADSEN. Nationality: Danish. Born: Silkeborg, Denmark, 20 November 1890. Career: Joined the Zircus Miehe at age 14, and remained with it for 11 years; he formed a trio of clowns called "Die drei Miehes" and toured Scandinavia and Germany with the group; 1917—film debut in Alexander den store (Alexander the Great). Died: 13 July 1949.
SCHENSTRØM. Nationality: Danish. Born: Copenhagen, 13 November 1881. Career: Emigrated with his family to Chicago in the 1890s, but the family returned to Denmark after his father was hit by a streetcar; trained as a bookbinder, but went on the stage in 1903, and joined Nordisk Film Company in 1909; 1918—appeared in the Asta Nielsen film Mod Lyset . Died: 1942.
In 1921—the two comics were brought together by the director Lau Lauritzen, and made over 40 films until 1940; after Schenstrøm's death in 1942, Madsen made one final film, Hjältar mot sin vilja .
Alexander den store ( Alexander the Great ) (Madsen only)
Mod Lyset (Holger-Madsen) (Schenstrøm only)
Vaeddeløberen (Lauritzen) (Schenstrøm only); Et sommereventyr ( De keder sig pålandet ) (Lauritzen) (Schenstrøm only)
Tyvepak ; Film, flirt og forlovelse (Lauritzen)
Sol, sommer og studiner (Lauritzen); Landligger-idyl vandgang (Lauritzen); Han, Hun og Hamlet (Lauritzen); Mellem muntre musikanter (Lauritzen); Blandt byens børn (Lauritzen)
Kan kaerlighed kureres? (Lauritzen); Dårskab, dyd og driverter (Lauritzen); Vore venners vinter (Lauritzen)
Professor Petersens plejebørn (Lauritzen); Lille Lise Letpåtå (Lauritzen); Raske Riviera rejsende (Lauritzen); Ole Opfinders offer (Lauritzen)
Takt, tone og tosser (Lauritzen); Zwei vagabunden in Prater (Lowenstein); Polis Paulus' Påskasmäll ( Spritsmuglerne ) (Molander); Grønkøbings glade gavtyve (Lauritzen)
Dødsbokseren (Lauritzen); Ulvejaegerne (Lauritzen); Ebberöds Bank ( Ebberød Bank ) (Wallén); Don Quixote (Lauritzen); Die Swiegersöhne ( Svigersønnerne ) (Steinhoff); Lykkehjulet (Gad)
Kongen af Pelikanien (Andersen); Vestervovvov (Lauritzen); Cocktails ( For fuld Fart ) (Banks); Tordenstenene (Lauritzen)
Kraft og Skønhed (Lauritzen); Filmens Helte (Lauritzen)
Kys, Klap og Kommers (Lauritzen); Hallo, Afrika forude (Lauritzen); Højt på en Kvist (Lauritzen); Hr. Tell og Søn (Lauritzen); The Rocket Bus ( Raketbussen ; Alf's Carpet ) (Kellino)
Tausend Worte Deutsch ( Taler De tysk? ) (Jacoby); Pas på Pigerne (Lauritzen); Fy og Bi Prøvefilm (Lauritzen)
Krudt med Knald (Lauritzen); Fy og Bi i Kantonnement (Lauritzen)
Han, Hun og Hamlet (Lauritzen); Lumpenkavaliere ( Glade Gøglere ) (Boese)
Med fuld musik (Lauritzen) (Schenstrøm only)
Knox und die lustigen Vagabunden ( Zirkus Saran ) (Emo)
Mädchenräuber ( Kvinderøverne ) (Sauer); Blinde Passagiere ( Blinde Passagerer ) (Sauer)
Bleka Greven ( Raske Detektiver ) (Rodin); Eine Insel wird entdeckt ( Pat und Patachon im Paradies ; Fy og Bi i Paradis ) (Lamác)
Midt i byens hjerte
I de gode gamle Dage (Jacobsen)
Hjältar mot sin vilja (Husberg) (Madsen only)
Lange-Fuchs, Hauge, Pat und Patachon , Berlin, 1979.
Engberg, Marguerite, Fy & Bi , Copenhagen, 1980.
Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 14, no. 2, 1972.
Retro , November-December 1981 and January-February 1982.
Sauvaget, D., "Les Z'héros du cinéma—Doublepatte et Patachon," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), June 1986.
Norrested, C., "Fy og Bi," in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), no. 215, Spring 1996.
* * *
Harald Madsen and Carl Schenstrøm were established as a comic team in Danish films in 1921 and through 1940 they made 46 films, 13 of them outside Denmark, in Sweden, Germany, Austria, and England. In Denmark they were known as Fyrtaarnet & Bivognen (literally the Light Tower and the Trailer), abridged to Fy & Bi. They were not the first film comedy team, but they were the earliest to gain international recognition, and in the 1920s they were immensely popular all over Europe. In France they were called Doublepatte and Patachon, in England Long & Short, and in the United States, where only a few of their films were distributed and where they never succeeded in attracting an audience, they were called Ole & Axel. Internationally they were best known by their German names Pat and Patachon.
Schenstrøm was a tall, lean man with a melancholy face and a drooping moustache. Madsen was a short and fat little fellow with a sly or sheepish smile on his childlike moon face. There was a strikingly classic contrast in their visual appearance, which immediately appealed to the cinema-going public, and they were an instant success.
Schenstrøm was the clever and inventive fellow, a kind of father figure to the short and naive Madsen. This simple relationship, once established, never led to more stimulating characterizations of their types. They were likable simpletons and their innocent humor was enjoyed by an audience which found the American slapstick comedies of the period too fast and too violent.
Schenstrøm and Madsen were both born and raised in petit bourgeois families. Schenstrøm was trained as a bookbinder before he went to the stage in 1903 and he had a solid theatrical background before he entered films in 1914. Madsen started in circus as a boy and was a partner in a clown trio before his film career began. Madsen and Schenstrøm were brought together by the director Lau Lauritzen, who had worked for six years at Nordisk Films, making two-reel comedies, before he became the artistic manager and leading director at Palladium, founded in 1921. In 1919 Lauritzen made the short comedy Vaeddeløberen , in which he used Schenstrøm and a short actor. This couple made another two-reeler, but in 1921 Lauritzen saw Madsen in a circus, and Fyrtaarnet & Bivognen were born. Lauritzen directed 30 of the comedies made in Denmark, and he also wrote many of the films.
The stories were simplistic tales, often about a young man and a young girl in love, but separated because of social barriers. Fy & Bi, the eternal outsiders, were often marginal characters in the story, but they played an important part as the instruments of love's fulfilment. The films ridiculed the nouveau riches of the time, and were mildly satirical of the upper middle-class establishment. Lauritzen preferred shooting outdoors (the Danish landscape is nicely used as a background), and he also garnished the films with pretty young girls. But as a director Lauritzen was pedestrian and uninventive, the films being loosely structured and slow. The infrequent gags depended on the simple presentation of the two amiable figures. The films represented an idyllic alternative to the highly professional products of the major film-producing countries, and they mirrored the innocent provinciality of a small country. In the 1930s Fy & Bi's popularity faded in most countries, but they still had a large and loyal audience in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Austria.