I was a bit taken aback when I looked at the morning paper on Monday morning. The entire front page was taken up by a photo of Hans Alfredson who had died the previous day. I knew that he was an important figure but hadn’t expected this kind of reaction. All the TV schedules were changed too, to broadcast tributes. And yet outside of Sweden, I suspect there was scarcely a single obituary. Working in Swedish, he was primarily an enormous local hero but not for export.
Of course I knew of him. His partnership with Tage Danielsson dominated Swedish comedy for many years. A real Swedish renaissance man: actor, director, novelist and even at the end zoo director!
And many of those who worked with Hasse & Tage achieved international success. The magnificent jazz singer and actress, Monica Zetterlund, who sung with many of the jazz elite of her day, most memorably on Waltz for Debby that she recorded with Bill Evans. Lena Nyman, the star of the notoriously explicit I am curious (Yellow), who went on to act in Bergman’s Autumn Sonata and become a stalwart of the Swedish stage. And several more besides. Locust was a big fan to put it mildly and she wrote this on the Nighthawks thread:
“With the exception of the younger generations I’d say that all Swedes LOVE “Hasseåtage”, and Hasse’s death (and Gösta Ekman’s earlier this year) shuts the door on that era of comedy; equal parts political satire and absurd silliness. Not all of it stands up today, but most of it actually do (but it helps if you know and remember the well-known people and issues of that time…)
They did so much, for a very long time; radio shows, comedy revues, films, albums, books; they wrote and acted and directed and they made us laugh more than any other comedians (and cry a little as well, when they did serious stuff!) Their films are among the ones I’ve seen the most times in the cinema, going back again and again and following the film when it moved from cinema to cinema, and seeing it again some years later when some cinema picked it up for a re-run (remember when they used to do that, just a year or two after the original release? Before the VHS and DVD and streaming…) I can quote tons of lines from everything they did, and sing the lyrics to lots of their songs (and I’m notoriously bad at remembering lyrics).
I only saw them live in the theatre once, unfortunately, for Fröken Fleggmans Mustasch. I still have the handkerchief that the program was printed on so you could blow your nose in case the play moved you to tears (of laughter).
Hasseåtage is our Monty Python, but better (oh yes, I said it…)”
I’m fascinated by local heroes like this. People, who even if they achieve international success, have a very special connection with a particular audience. When bossa nova maestro Tom Jobim died, the Brazilian government proclaimed a day of national mourning. Cap Verde had two days for Cesaria Evora!
A “local” hero need not be a national thing. It can also be within a sub-culture. Len Wein, co-creator of Wolverine dies at the weekend. (Thanks to Sniffity for sharing that sad news). Flags were doubtless at halfmast in Comicland.
Any other local heroes who were honoured in a special way or ought to have been?
DuCool and I both wore metaphorical black ties when Jackie Leven passed away.
A friend told me about how the day after Otis Redding died, many kids at her school wore black arm bands to the great chagrin of the head teacher who insisted they removed them at once. Now perhaps, there is greater tolerance?
I’m posting a fine song by Monica Z from one of the H & T reviews. It questions what has gone so wrong in the country. Zetterlund was a friend of Olof Palme and did not want to sing it. A few years later both Palme and Tage Danielsson would be dead, and an era of innocence would be over for Sweden.