Popular Czech actor dies at country house

One of the legends of Czech film, the actor Vlastimil Brodsky, died on Saturday at the age of 81. He was loved by three generations of Czechs, and, as Alena Skodova reports, his unforgettable voice will be deeply missed.

Vlastimil Brodsky, photo: CTKVlastimil Brodsky, photo: CTK Vlastimil Brodsky was immensely popular for his roles in film and theatre, but also, as in the short extract we've just heard, as the narrator of popular children's bed time stories on Czech radio, known as Hajaja, which have been going strong for forty years. Vlastimil Brodsky started his theatre career at 20 and said his last good bye to the stage at the age of 70, although he continued to appear in films, nearly a hundred altogether in his sixty-year career.

Vlastimil Brodsky was born in 1920 in Hrusov near the North Moravian town of Ostrava, and his mother wanted him to become a secondary school teacher. But the young Vlastimil soon moved to Prague and spent his spare time going to theatres - he himself recalled recently that back then he saw many plays five or six times. After performing in several smaller theatres, in 1948 he signed a contract with the Vinohrady Theatre in Prague, where he acted regularly till 1984. In the 1950s he started his career as a film actor, and his roles very often depicted deeply human, tragicomic characters. Especially fruitful was his cooperation with the director Jiri Menzel: he played an SS officer in Menzel's 'Closely Observed Trains', which won the Oscar for the best non-English language film in 1968.

J. Jiraskova and V. Brodsky, photo: CTKJ. Jiraskova and V. Brodsky, photo: CTK Vlastimil Brodsky also wrote several books, including his memoirs. He won a number of prestigious film awards. For his role as an alcoholic in the TV film 'Migrating Birds' he won the Golden Nymph at the international TV festival in Monte Carlo. In 1998 he received the Thalia Prize for his life-long work and also was the winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlinale film festival for his lead role in 'Jakub Liar'. His last film called 'Indian Summer' was finished a year ago. Vlastimil Brodsky played a good natured and slightly eccentric old man. For this role - which proved to be his last - he was given the Czech Lion Award for the best lead male in 2001.

In recent years Brodsky had often joked about death, with the black humour that characterised his whole acting career. His family have not commented on how he died - at his country cottage in North Bohemia - but Monday's newspapers did not rule out the possibility of suicide.