If a Thousand Clarinets

Ján Roháč, Vladimír Svitáček, 1964



In 1964 Prague’s Semafor theatre was such a safe bet that Barrandov’s investment in an expensive musical loosely inspired by a stage play that premiered in 1958 at Divadlo Na zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade) paid off. Kdyby tisíc klarinetů (If a Thousand Clarinets) was written by Jiří Suchý and Ivan Vyskočil (it did not premiere at Semafor itself until 1980). The film’s songs were more recent than the play and represented a cross-section of Semafor hits penned by Suchý and Jiří Šlitr, arranged here for a large orchestra. The song and dance numbers are linked to a simple anti-war story about a military garrison where weapons mysteriously turn into musical instruments. While army chiefs try to deal with the mess, even resorting to dirty tricks, the soldiers happily throw themselves into rehearsing for a musical extravaganza that it is decided will be broadcast live on television. A TV crew led by the beautiful director Tereza (Jana Brejchová) thus arrives at the base. Many star musicians and actors of the period appear in the film, which openly places itself in the tradition of Hollywood-style musical shows. Some of the cast more or less play themselves (Karel Gott, Hana Hegerová), while others take the roles of soldiers (including Suchý and Šlitr and Waldemar Matuška). The screenplay was written by Suchý and Ján Roháč, who shared directing duties with Vladimír Svitáček. Actors, singers and musicians from Semafor (e.g., Gott, Eva Pilarová, Matuška…) appear in the film, as does a girl’s choir in which fledgling young actresses and singers (from the Divadlo Paravan and Magic Lantern theatres) can be spotted. The grandly conceived dance numbers were performed by the ballet company from the Karlín Musical Theatre and the Alhambra cabaret troupe. Popular actors such as Vlastimil Brodský and Martin Růžek complement the elaborate cast. The then little-known Jiří Menzel has a cameo as the deserter Schulz, who is responsible for the whole situation.
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About a film

film_production_year 1964
film_countries Czechoslovakia
film_genres musical
film_form feature
film_duration 131 min
film_director Ján Roháč, Vladimír Svitáček
film_cast Jana Brejchová, Waldemar Matuška, Hana Hegerová, Eva Pilarová, Karel Gott
film_director_of_photography Rudolf Stahl ml.
film_screenplay Jiří Suchý, Ján Roháč
film_film_editor Miroslav Hájek
film_production_designer Boris Moravec
film_art_director Ester Krumbachová
film_music_composed_by Jiří Šlitr
film_sound_designer František Černý, Josef Vlček, Jiří Zobač, Bohumír Brunclík, Antonín Jedlička