How Honza Almost Became a King

Bořivoj Zeman, 1977



Bořivoj Zeman is today assured of his place in the history of Czech fairy tales thanks to the cult films Pyšná princezna (The Proud Princess, 1952) and Byl jednou jeden král (Once Upon a Time, There Was a King, 1954). In 1968, he added to these movies with the fairy tale musical Šíleně smutná princezna (Incredibly Sad Princess), in which the lead roles were played by Helena Vondráčková and Václav Neckář, who were popstars at the time. The storybook tale Honza málem králem (How Honza Almost Became a King) tries to follow up on this success by casting Jiří Korn in the lead role (although the popular singer was dubbed by Michal Pavlata.) The film, however, does not rely on musical numbers – it contains only three songs by Jiří Sternwald. Despite the fact that the screenwriter was Oldřich Kautský, as was the case for the aforementioned Zeman films from the 1950s, How Honza Almost Became a King from 1977 did not enjoy the same mass popularity as some of the director’s other movies (including, among others, two comedies about a curmudgeonly Prague ticket inspector Dovolená s Andělem (Holiday with Angel, 1952) and Anděl na horách (Angel in the Mountains, 1955)). In the last title from his filmography, the then 65-year-old screenwriter and director offered a comic variation on the classic story of Hloupý Honza (“Silly Honza” – a kind of Czech version of Simple Simon). In Zeman’s film, however, the folk hero turns out to be a clever and energetic young man, who teaches a lesson to a stingy farmer, a jealous royal drummer, and a conceited princess, who pretends to be mute and takes the lives of her suitors. However, even the light-hearted and convivial Honza comes to realise that his love for the simple village girl Mařenka is more important than adventure, property, a princess and half a kingdom… Some of the motifs in the story are vaguely reminiscent of the French costume drama romance Fanfan la Tulipe (1952). Besides casting Jiří Korn in his first major film role, the director also used experienced professionals. Naďa Konvalinková took the role of Mařenka, Honza’s mother was played by Marie Glázrová, the part of the proud princess was filled by Jorga Kotrbová, and her father, the king, was played by František Filipovský.
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About a film

film_production_year 1977
film_countries Czechoslovakia
film_genres fairytale
film_form feature
film_duration 86 min
film_director Bořivoj Zeman
film_cast Jiří Korn, Naďa Konvalinková, Marie Glázrová, Jorga Kotrbová, František Filipovský
film_director_of_photography Ivan Šlapeta
film_screenplay Oldřich Kautský, Bořivoj Zeman
film_film_editor Josef Dobřichovský
film_production_designer Oldřich Bosák
film_music_composed_by Jiří Sternwald
film_sound_designer František Černý