Willi Forst

Willi Forst, born Wilhelm Anton Frohs (7 April 1903 – 11 August 1980) was an Austrian actor, screenwriter, film director, film producer and singer.[1] As a debonair actor he was a darling of the German-speaking film audiences, as a director, one of the most significant makers of the Viennese period musical melodramas and comedies of the 1930s known as Wiener Filme. From the mid-1930s he also recorded many records, largely of sentimental Viennese songs, for the Odeon Records label owned by Carl Lindström AG.

Willi Forst
Wilhelm Anton Frohs

(1903-04-07)7 April 1903
Died11 August 1980(1980-08-11) (aged 77)


His first major role was opposite Marlene Dietrich in the silent film Café Elektric in 1927. He was best known, however, for his characters in light musicals, which rapidly made him a star. He developed the genre of the Viennese Film with writer Walter Reisch in the 1930s, beginning with the Franz Schubert melodrama Leise flehen meine Lieder (1934) which became an iconic role for actor Hans Jaray and Maskerade (1934), which launched his fame as a significant director and brought Paula Wessely to international fame. He founded his own film company, Willi Forst-Film, in 1937 and considered a move to Hollywood the same year.

Following the annexation of Austria in 1938, he was much courted by the National Socialists but succeeded in avoiding overt political statement, concentrating entirely on the opulent period musical entertainment for which he was famous and which was much in demand during World War II. During the seven-year period of National Socialist rule in Austria, he only made four films, none of them political (although his ardent Vienna-Austrian topos is considered subversive of pan-German Nazism by many film historians), and which are considered among his finest and classics of the Viennese Film genre.

He had comparatively little success after the war with the exception of the film The Sinner (1951) starring Hildegard Knef, which became a scandal because of the protests of the Roman Catholic church against its nudity, the first in German-speaking cinema, but which subsequently attracted an audience of seven million people. He gave international actress Senta Berger her first role in 1957 and that same year directed his last film (Vienna, City of My Dreams), after which he retired from the industry, suggesting that his style was no longer in demand.

After the death of his wife in 1973 he lived a reclusive life in the Swiss canton of Ticino. He died of cancer in Vienna in 1980 and is buried in Neustift am Walde. Forst is today considered one of Europe's important early sound directors.






  • Kirsten Burghardt, Werk, Skandal, Exempel. Munich 1996 (deals with Forst's film "Die Sünderin") ISBN 3-926372-61-3
  • Robert Dachs, Willi Forst. Eine Biographie. Vienna 1986. ISBN 3-218-00437-3
  • Armin Loacker (ed.), Willi Forst - Ein Filmstil aus Wien. 2003. ISBN 9783901932243
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