26 September 2016 | t_atzmueller
One of the finest and most enduring Bavarian comedies
The story of "The sold grandfather" has been staged – generally as plays, but occasionally as TV-films – countless times, is considered one of the most popular stage-plays of the Bavarian "Bauerntheater" ("Farmer's theatre", or more correctly, "urban theatre"), and it's safe to say that most actors of rank and name have played in one version or the other. Indeed, the story, simple as it may be, has proved popular in other German states, which is slightly unusual, considering that those stories are generally a purely "local affair". Hence, it would be difficult to name the perfect version, though I might argue that the play from 1976 remains the most popular among aficionados.
The story, short and simple: Farmer Kreithofer (Toni Berger) is down on his luck and pretty much out of money. The ruthless horse-trader Haslinger (Walter Sedlmayr) learns through the grape-vine that Kreithofers aged grandfather (Ludwig Schmid-Wildy), considered useless in running a farm and on the verge of feebleness, actually owns two valuable houses. A fact that is not even known to Kreithofer himself. Tricky, as the reputation of horse-traders would have it, Haslinger first tries to get his daughter Ev (Yvonne Brosch) to engage with Kreithofer's son Lois (Henner Quest), in order to get his hands on the fortune. But the buxom beauty refuses on the ground that she knows nothing about her potential husband. Hence, Haslinger makes the impoverished farmer an offer that he cannot refuse: he'll 'buy' the grandfather off him, on the grounds that he himself no longer has one and that no household is considered complete without its own grandfather. Needless to say, the elder Kreithofer is by no means as feeble as it would seem, realizing which direction the wind is blowing from – namely Haslingers goal to eventually inherit the potential fortune. Hence, the grandfather takes advantage of the greedy businessman, getting served from hand to foot (rubs literally included) by Haslinger and his wife (Erni Singerl). Until of course it comes to light that those two houses are merely figments of the old man's imagination. Or are they
As with any other play of that sort: the story is simple, the twist obvious and of course there'll be a happy end, including a young couple getting together, the honest farmer has a financial burden lift off his shoulders, the scheming horse-trader is left with empty hands and the witty grandfather has the last laugh. No surprises are expected and none are being asked for by the audience. All those "rural plays" rely 90 percent on the setting (which transports the viewer into an authentic rural, farming-community setting, unless they're watching it live and chances being that that's already where they're from) and the wit and charisma of the actors themselves. In this version we witness the meeting of three giants of the local scene: Erni Singerl; few plays and television plays would be complete with at least an appearance of this veteran, Toni Berger (probably among the top-five most popular stage-actors in Bavaria, who'd later go on to play the "grandfather"-role himself on numerous occasions) and most prominently Walter Sedlmayr.
A few years earlier, Sedlmayr had been little more than a struggling actor, thanks to his portly body-shape and balding appearance relegated to playing bit parts. After appearing in the pseudo-documentary "Theodor Hierneis oder Wie man ehem. Hofkoch wird" (playing a former cook of Bavaria's last king Ludwig II) that changed drastically and henceforth the Bavarian TV-landscape seemed unthinkable without Sedlmayr appearing in any given production. Indeed, many Bavarians considered him an "archetype": down to earth, witty, humorous, bourgeois, rough but charming, a heart of gold inside an occasional rugged outside; in short, somebody with whom rural Bavarians would and wanted to identify with. Though more at home on a TV-Set, Sedlymayr manages to put all his co-actors into the shade in this production. He plays the scheming, greedy and opportunistic horse-trader to a tit, yet never comes across as unlikeable but more as a lovable scoundrel, who'll inevitably and deceivingly lose that round of "mental chess" that he's playing with the grandfather.
Don't have to say much more to fans of the genre. They'll know the story and more likely than not, they'll know this version, considering it one of the holy grails of "Volkstheater". Those interested but not yet familiar with this kind of theatre, I suggest you might as well start off with "Der Verkaufte Großvater", perhaps even with this version (although that is by no means intended to put down other fine interpretations). 9/10