Helmut Fischer went down in history as “Monaco Franze”. He died on June 14, 1997 at the age of 70. A look back at his life.
A native of Munich went down in film history as a Bavarian charmer and womanizer. The acting talent of Helmut Fischer (1926-1997) remained undiscovered for almost 20 years. But after a fateful encounter, the actor would become a cult figure. He is unforgettable as “Monaco Franze”, who wraps all women around his little finger. The life of the native of Munich came to a surprising end with the walking on a cane. 25 years ago today, on June 14, 1997, the popular suburban Casanova died of cancer at the age of 70. But as an “eternal Stenz” it has remained with us to this day.
Not an easy childhood
Helmut Fischer was born on November 15, 1926 in Munich. As the son of a merchant and a tailor, he grew up in modest circumstances. His father left the family early. Little Helmut was at home in the Neuhausen district, more precisely at Donnersbergerstrasse 50a.
His mother wanted him to be a civil servant, the headmaster of his school saw him as a tram conductor – but everything was to be very different. Even as a child, he was a “fanatical moviegoer,” as he once noted in an interview with BR journalist Sybille Krafft (64). “I’ve always wanted to be an actor.” In 1939 he finally left secondary school without a degree.
A bumpy start
Fischer began taking lessons at the Otto Falckenberg Acting School – but dropped out again after a short time. Speaking to Krafft, the actor admitted he doesn’t think much of drama schools. “They all belong closed because they teach you things that you shouldn’t use under any circumstances.” Giving up was out of the question for the young Fischer – he went directly to the theater and made his debut in 1952 in Würzburg.
But the big breakthrough was still a long time coming, for years Fischer only played minor supporting roles on stage or on television. He himself declared that he had not had any success until he was 50 years old. The actor kept his head above water for decades with various jobs, which put a lot of strain on him. Among other things, he wrote film reviews or worked as a watch salesman.
Breakthrough thanks to “Tatort” and Dietl
But at the beginning of the 1970s, the tide turned for Fischer – and significantly so. From 1972 he investigated in the Munich “crime scene” – first as chief detective Ludwig Lenz, assistant to the then chief inspector Melchior Veigl (Gustl Bayrhammer, 1922-1993). When Bayrhammer left the Sunday thriller in 1981, Fischer was promoted to chief inspector – and was to hold the post until 1987.
During his crime time, the actor made an acquaintance in his regular Schwabing café “Münchner Freiheit” that was to change his life. Cult director Helmut Dietl (1944-2015) saw Fischer’s potential and hired him in 1979 for the BR series “Der quite normal madness”. Even then he performed a Casanova, still in a supporting role. As Lino Gailing, he quickly won the hearts of the audience. His good friend Dietl later wrote a role for the man from Munich that has enjoyed cult status to this day.
One role changed everything
In 1983, the ten-part series “Monaco Franze – The Eternal Stenz” was launched. Fischer celebrated his final breakthrough as the easy-going womanizer Franz Münchinger, who with his easy-going sayings and his irresistible manner twisted the female sex around his finger. At the side of his “Spatzl”, played by Ruth Maria Kubitschek (90), Münchinger experiences some adventures. Sayings like “A little something is always possible” or “Go Spatzl, look how i look!” can be found today in general Bavarian usage. It is no coincidence that Dietl gave his good friend such a role. “I always liked it,” the director said later. “He was an unmistakable personality […]. There aren’t that many of them.”
For many, Helmut Fischer and Monaco Franze are one and the same person. But the actor kept saying he didn’t have much in common with the character. He had been married to his wife Utta Martin since 1953 and stayed with the dancer until his death. But his serial wife Ruth Maria Kubitschek said in an interview with “Merkur” in 2016 that Fischer had “success with women”. “I think that’s what inspired Dietl for the character.” Kubitschek described her fellow actors as “fair and really great” – but he was “not my type at all”.
After the meteoric success of Monaco Franzes, more and more role offers came to Fischer. Among other things, the Munich was seen in “Traumschiff”, “Schloss am Wörthersee” or in “Die Hausmeisterin”. Alongside Thomas Gottschalk (72), he played a leading role in “Zärtliche Chaos” (1987). In the course of his career, he was awarded the Adolf Grimme Prize and the Golden Romy, among others, for his achievements.
The sudden end
His 70th birthday was to be the last major celebration in the actor’s life. Very surprising for many, Helmut Fischer died on June 14, 1997 in Riedering im Chiemgau. The actor had been diagnosed with cancer years earlier, but Fischer largely kept the disease to himself. The exceptional talent was buried at the Bogenhausen Cemetery in Munich, and more than 1,000 people attended the funeral service on June 19.
“He was popular all over Germany – he was loved in Munich,” said the then mayor Christian Ude (74) in the eulogy. A special honor was bestowed upon him posthumously by his home town. There is a bronze monument in the garden of his favorite bar “Münchner Freiheit” and a square in Schwabing was named after him. A monument was erected for both Helmut Fischer and his star role Monaco Franze.