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Slovak Studies Program

Martin Votruba


Jánošík (1921)




Jánošík (available with English intertitles in Hillman Library) is a Slovak black-and-white silent film from 1921. It relates the popular legend of the highwayman Juraj Jánošík. It shows the filmmakers' experience with early American movies in camera work, in the use of parallel narratives, and in sequences inspired by Westerns. Jánošík placed Slovak filmmaking as the 10th national cinema in the world to produce a full-length feature movie.
Film release
Jánošík was shown informally to the film crew and friends in Vrútky, Turiec County, Slovakia, before its theatrical release, which is sometimes misquoted as its release date. It had premieres in Prague (25 Nov. 1921), in Cicero, IL (1 Dec. 1921, at the now demolished 1150-seat Atlantic), and in Žilina (3 Jan. 1922, at the Grand Bio Universum, now called Dom umenia Fatra).
Sources are probably incorrect when they say that Jánošík's budget was about $14,500 and estimate its total gross in Czecho-Slovakia during its theatrical run at close to 19 million Czecho-Slovak crowns, which would have been an equivalent of over $9 million in 1922 dollars.
Sources sometimes mention its presumed listing by UNESCO as world cultural heritage, but Jánošík is not included on the lists of Tangible Heritage, Intangible Heritage, or World Heritage maintained by UNESCO.
Plot summary
The story is set in the early 1700s when many farmers in the Habsburg Empire were obligated to work in a nobleman’s fields for 1-2 days a week. The location is the Kingdom of Hungary’s north-western Carpathians with a Slovak majority population. Juraj Jánošík (Theodor Pištěk), a young, imposing seminary student, returns to his home village to find that his ailing mother has just died. Count Šándor (Vladimír Šrámek), however, would not release Jánošík’s father (Karel Schleichert) from his weekly obligations for her funeral and has the father caned, which proves fatal for the old man. Jánošík assaults the count and escapes from the village.
While on the run, Jánošík finds himself fighting on the side of a band of highwaymen in a skirmish with the count’s cohort commanded by Pišta (Jozef Chylo), discards the frock, joins the band, and takes over the band's leadership. Jánošík’s band parties in the mountains, robs traveling noblemen, and uses disguise to rob the guests at the noblemen's county ball only to redistribute the booty among the farmers.
Jánošík rekindles a love affair with his childhood sweetheart Anička (Mária Fábryová), who is sexually harassed by the count. The local priest (František Horlivý) helps Jánošík with the cover-up during his visits to the village. His frequent calls and yet another scuffle with the count prove to be his undoing. With the help of a betrayer, the count's men learn about Jánošík's whereabouts and overpower him and his band during a drinking party in a tavern. Jánošík is hanged.
The central narrative is framed in a story set around the time of the film’s release, in which a hiker (Theodor Pištěk) and friends (Mária Fábryová, Jozef Chylo) pause at a mountain sheepfold where the head shepherd comments on the hiker’s stature similar to the legendary Jánošík’s and narrates the film’s story line for them.
Tatra Film commissioned the screenplay from the Slovak-American Jozef Žák-Marušiak (immigrated in 1911) from Lakšárska Nová Ves, who based it on a two-volume novel by the Slovak-American journalist Gustáv Maršall-Petrovský. The novel was the filmmakers' original inspiration for making the movie. The screenplay had features of a shooting script. It was typed on a US typewriter without diacritics, in Slovak with English camera directions.
Žák-Marušiak delivered barely a third of the screenplay before the team's departure for Slovakia, some of it arrived by mail during the shoot, and the rest did not reach them before the film was finished. The filmmakers improvised and used the play Jánošík by Moravian author Jiří Mahen translated to Slovak by Martin Rázus in 1920.
The film was directed by Slovak-American Jaroslav Siakeľ. Born in Blatnica and baptized Ludvik Jaroslav Siakeľ, he immigrated to the United States in 1912 at the age of 16 to join his older brother Daniel, one of the two cameraman on the film, who immigrated in 1905. The director used Ludwig Jerry as his given names in English. He opted for the names Jaroslav and Jerry in personal contacts.
The film was thought lost until 1970. It was restored by Ján Rumanovský (1929-2001) with a music soundtrack by Jozef Malovec in 1975.
The leading and supporting roles were given to both professional and amateur actors. Theodor Pištěk in the dual role of Jánošík and of a hiker in the framing story was one of the most popular actors of the period who starred in nine other films in the same year. Pištěk believed that he got the role thanks to Jánošík's art director and actor (priest) František Horlivý, who was an amateur actor in Chicago, but used to work in the theater troupe organized by Pištěk's father Jan in Prague.
Mária Fábryová in the leading role of Jánošík's lover Anička was an amateur actress from Martin (and related by marriage to one of the best known Slovak poets Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav). She got the part after her uncle Samuel Fábry, the chief founder and Secretary of Tatra Film, showed her photograph to the filmmakers and advanced her for the role. The extras were locals from Blatnica and Šútovo, and soldiers from the 18th Infantry Brigade at Žilina.
Blatnica, Mansion of Turčianska Štiavnička, Mošovce, Necpaly, Šútovo (waterfall), Gaderská Valley, Horné and Dolné Jasenovo, Kláštor pod Znievom, Sebeslavce, mountains of Ďumbier and Kráľova Hoľa.
Tatra Film Corporation
The film Jánošík was made and financed by the Tatra Film Corporation founded by Slovak-Americans in Chicago at 1543 W. Chicago Ave., and incorporated in Illinois with a capital stock of $50,000 (as printed on its shares; sources mention lower amounts). The company's chief founder was its Secretary Samuel Fábry, a Chicago businessman. Its Board of Directors also included President Samuel Tvarožek, Vice-President Richard Blaha, and Business Manager Ján Šimo. Among the founders of Tatra Film were the brothers and future filmmakers Jaroslav Siakeľ and Daniel Siakeľ. Both had experience with film equipment and processing, and limited experience with filmmaking from working for the Selig Polyscope Company in Chicago (some sources misidentify them as its owners or founders).
Director Jaroslav Jerry Siakeľ (1896-1997)
Screenplay, novel Gustáv Maršall-Petrovský (1862-1916)
Screenplay Jozef Žák-Marušiak (1885-1977)
Jaroslav Siakeľ (uncredited)
Daniel Siakeľ (uncredited)
Jiří Mahen (uncredited)
Cinematography Daniel Siakeľ (1886-1964)
Oldřich Beneš
Silent, 1975 music track Jozef Malovec (1933-1998)
1975 restoration editing Patrik Pašš
Art direction Ondrej Kováčik
Bohuslav Šula
Language Silent
Running time 1h 8'
Release dates 25 Nov. 1921 (Prague, CZ)
1 Dec. 1921 (Chicago, US)
3 Jan. 1922 (Žilina, SK)
Characters Cast
Juraj Jánošík; and Hiker (dual role) Theodor Pištěk (1895-1960)
Anička, Jánošík's lover; and Hiker (dual role) Mária Fábryová (1900-1973)
Count Šándor Vladimír Šrámek (1893-1969)
Pišta, count's deputy; and Hiker (dual role) Jozef Chylo (?-1956)
Priest, the protector František Horlivý (?-1932)
Hrajnoha, highwayman P. Kutný
Ilčík, highwayman L. Hušek
Michalčík, highwayman Michal Staník
Jánošík, Juraj's father Karel Schleichert (1865-1940)
Baron Révay Miloslav Schmidt (1881-1934)
Baroness Révay Olga Augustová (1895-1970)
The Révays' Daughter Bronislava Livia (1901-?)
Military Commander Jan W. Speerger (1896-1950)
Gypsy Woman Saša Dobrovodská
County Chief of Liptov Ferdinand Fiala (1971-1931)
Nobleman Rudolf Myzet (1888-1953)
Chief Judge Karel Fiala (1888-1970)
  Jaroslav Vojta (1888-1970)
  Samuel Šťastný
  Vlado Ivaška















































































Jánošík clip.


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