Ján Kadár

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Ján Kadár
BornJános Kadár
(1918-04-01)1 April 1918
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
(now Hungary)
Died 1 June 1979(1979-06-01) (aged 61)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active 1945–1979
Spouse(s) Judita Kadár
Awards NY Critics Best Foreign Film Award
1966 The Shop on Main Street
Canadian Etrog
1976 Lies My Father Told Me
Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film
1976 Lies My Father Told Me
Oscar for Best Foreign Film
1966 The Shop on Main Street

Ján Kadár (1 April 1918 – 1 June 1979) was a Hungarian-born Slovak film writer and director of Jewish heritage.

Kingdom of Hungary former Central European monarchy (1000–1946)

The Kingdom of Hungary was a monarchy in Central Europe that existed from the Middle Ages into the 20th century. The Principality of Hungary emerged as a Christian kingdom upon the coronation of the first king Stephen I at Esztergom around the year 1000; his family led the monarchy for 300 years. By the 12th century, the kingdom became a European middle power within the Western world.


As a filmmaker, he worked in Czechoslovakia, the United States, and Canada. Most of his films were directed in tandem with Elmar Klos. The two became best known for their Oscar-winning The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, 1965). [1] As a professor at FAMU (Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts) [2] in Prague, Kadár trained most of the directors who spawned the Czechoslovak New Wave in the 1960s.

Czechoslovakia 1918–1992 country in Central Europe, predecessor of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

After moving to the United States, he became professor of film direction at the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills. His personal life as well as his films encompassed and spanned a range of cultures: Jewish, Slovak, Hungarian, Czech, and American.[ citation needed ]

American Film Institute nonprofit educational arts organization devoted to film

The American Film Institute (AFI) is an American film organization that educates filmmakers and honors the heritage of the motion picture arts in the United States. AFI is supported by private funding and public membership fees.

Czechs European nation and an ethnic group native to the Czech Republic

The Czechs or the Czech people, are a West Slavic ethnic group and a nation native to the Czech Republic in Central Europe, who share a common ancestry, culture, history, and Czech language.

Culture of the United States culture of an area

The culture of the United States of America is primarily of Western culture (European) origin and form, but is influenced by a multicultural ethos that includes African, Native American, Asian, Polynesian, and Latin American people and their cultures. It also has its own social and cultural characteristics, such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. The United States of America is an ethnically and racially diverse country as a result of large-scale migration from many countries throughout its history. Many American cultural elements, especially from popular culture, have spread across the globe through modern mass media.

Early years

Kadár was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. Before long, his parents brought him to Rožňava, Slovakia, in the newly created Czechoslovakia, where he grew up.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed by giving a new constitution to the Austrian Empire, which devolved powers on Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) and placed them on an equal footing. It broke apart into several states at the end of World War I.

Rožňava Town in Slovakia

Rožňava is a town in Slovakia, approximately 71 kilometres by road from Košice in the Košice Region, and has a population of 19,505.

Kadár took up the law in Bratislava after high school, but soon transferred to the first Department of Film in Czechoslovakia (probably the third such department in Europe) at the School of Industrial Arts in Bratislava [3] in 1938, where he took classes with Slovak film's notable director Karel Plicka until the department was closed in 1939. Kadár's home town, called Rozsnyó in Hungarian, became part of Hungary again in 1938. [ citation needed ]

Bratislava Capital city in Slovakia

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. With a population of about 430,000, it is one of the smaller capitals of Europe but still the country's largest city. The greater metropolitan area is home to more than 650,000 people. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia, occupying both banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two sovereign states.

The cinema of Slovakia encompasses a range of themes and styles typical of European cinema. Yet there are a certain number of recurring themes that are visible in the majority of the important works. These include rural settings, folk traditions, and carnival. Even in the field of experimental film-making, there is frequently a celebration of nature and tradition, as for example in Dušan Hanák's Pictures of the Old World. The same applies to blockbusters like Juraj Jakubisko's A Thousand-Year Old Bee. The percentage of comedies, adventures, musicals, sci-fi films and similar genres has been low by comparison to dramas and historical films that used to include a notable subset of social commentaries on events from the decade or two preceding the film. One of them, Ján Kadár's and Elmar Klos' The Shop on Main Street, gave Slovak filmmaking its first Oscar. Children's films were a perennial genre from the 1960s through the 1980s produced mainly as low-budget films by Slovak Television Bratislava. The themes of recent films have been mostly contemporary.

Karel Plicka Czech photographer and director

Karel Plicka was a Czechoslovak photographer, film director, cinematographer, folklorist, and pedagogue. He is considered a founder of Slovak film education and filmmaking. He helped establish the genre of ethnographic film in Czechoslovakia.

With the application of anti-Jewish laws, Kádár was detained in a labor camp. He later said that it was for the first time in his life that he acted as a Jew: he refused conversion and served in a work unit with a yellow armband rather than a white one which was the privilege of those baptized. [4] His parents and sister were murdered in the death camp at Auschwitz.[ citation needed ]

Film director


Kadár began his directing career in Bratislava, Slovakia, after World War II with the documentary Life Is Rising from the Ruins (Na troskách vyrastá život, 1945). After several documentaries expressive of the views of the Communist Party, which he joined, Kadár moved to Prague in 1947 and returned to Bratislava temporarily in order to make his first feature film Kathy (Katka, 1950).

Beginning in 1952, he co-directed all his Czechoslovak films with Elmar Klos solely in Prague except their Czech−Slovak projects Death Is Called Engelchen (Slovak : Smrť sa volá Engelchen, Czech : Smrt si říká Engelchen, 1963), The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, 1965), and Adrift (Czech : Touha zvaná Anada, Slovak : Túžba zvaná Anada, Hungarian : Valamit visz a víz, 1969) shot with Slovak, Hungarian, and Czech actors on location at Rusovce, Slovakia. Kadár returned to finish the latter one from the United States where he immigrated in November 1968. [5]

It was his last work with Klos. He then resumed his career in the U.S. and Canada working in both films and television. He was also a popular professor of film directing at the American Film Institute's Center for Advanced Film Studies.[ citation needed ]


While touting the obligatory Marxist-Leninist doctrine and adhering to Socialist-Realist filmmaking, Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos first bounced between comedy and hard-core propaganda. Kadár's first feature film Kathy (Katka, 1950) [6] made before he teamed up with Klos was little different in this respect from their subsequent joint work.[ citation needed ]

Their choice of themes began to change with the first, mild relaxation of communism in Czechoslovakia after Soviet leader Khrushchev's secret speech in 1956. Kadár and Klos's first film during this minor thaw, Three Wishes (Tři přání, 1958), a cagey satire on aspects of everyday life, outraged the authorities and was shelved until the more relaxed conditions in 1963. [7]

The studios suspended both directors for two years. [8]

Their Communist Party membership protected them from a worse fate, however, and Kadár was able to find a refuge in semi-propagandist, technically avant-garde work for the early Czechoslovak multi-screen shows at the Laterna magika (Magic Lantern) project. [9]


The first feature film Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos were able to make in five years showed a decided return to classical black-and-white filmmaking with barely a trace of Kadár's more experimental work at the Laterna magika.

A gradual relaxation of communist control in Czechoslovakia, whose first signs came from Slovakia, enabled the Bratislava journalist and writer Ladislav Mňačko to publish his novel Death Is Called Engelchen (Smrť sa volá Engelchen, 1959) [10] and Kadár and Klos to reach for it from Prague after their suspension was over. The novel and their film Death is Called Engelchen (Slovak : Smrť sa volá Engelchen, Czech : Smrt si říká Engelchen, 1963) spotlighted a new take on the massive pro-democratic Slovak revolt of 1944 that had previously been portrayed only as invariably glorious. It showed some of its aspects that brought about human tragedy. [3]

The film was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Golden Prize. [11]

The directors' next film, Accused aka Defendant (Obžalovaný, 1964), rehashed the propagandist structures of the earlier Socialist-Realist filmmaking, but turned them around by replacing the content mandated in the 1950s with committed social criticism that was quickly becoming one of the hallmarks of Slovak and Czech cinema of the 1960s.[ citation needed ]

All of these experiences and influences intersected to bring Kadár and Klos their enduring success with The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, 1965), [12] a compassionate and tormenting depiction of the dead-end street faced by many in Central Europe during the World-War-II deportations of the Jews to German concentration camps. [13] The film received several awards, including a foreign-language Oscar. Slovak and Czech film academics and critics still consider it the best film in the history of Slovak cinema. [14]

Kadár and Klos's work on their next project based on the Hungarian novel Something Is Drifting on the Water (Valamit visz a víz, 1928) by Lajos Zilahy, and, effectively, a remake of the Hungarian film with the English international title Something Is in the Water (Valamit visz a víz, dir. Gusztáv Oláh and Lajos Zilahy, 1943) was interrupted by the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.[ citation needed ]

Kadár and his family quickly resettled in the United States, and although he returned briefly to help finish the film released as Adrift (Czech : Touha zvaná Anada, Slovak : Túžba zvaná Anada, 1969), his involvement was limited by comparison to his previous work with Klos. That was also the last time that the two directors met.[ citation needed ]


Ján Kadár's first film after immigration to the United States and his first solo feature film since 1950 was The Angel Levine (1970), a substantially modified version of Bernard Malamud's short story Angel Levine (1958). [15]

He later directed Lies My Father Told Me in Canada. [16]


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  1. "The 38th Academy Awards (1966) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  2. FAMU
  3. 1 2 Martin Votruba, "Historical and Cultural Background of Slovak Filmmaking."
  4. Barbara Pearce Johnson, et al. Dialogue on Film: Kadar Study Guide (1979).<--ISSN/ISBN needed-->
  5. Kevin Thomas, "Film-maker Finds Freedom." The Los Angeles Times, 9 October 1971.
  6. Jelena Paštéková, "The Context of Slovak Filmmaking during the Imposition of Communism (1948–1955)."
  7. Peter Hames, "Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos", The Czechoslovak New Wave (1985).<--ISSN/ISBN needed-->
  8. Václav Macek, Ján Kadár. Forthcoming. Quoted in "Dištanc (1959–1962)", Film.sk, 7 August 2007. Archived 12 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine .
  9. "History", Laterna magika; accessed 23 July 2018.
  10. English translation by George Theiner, 1961.
  11. "3rd Moscow International Film Festival (1963)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  12. Steven Banovac, "Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos: The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze) 1965, kinokultura.com; accessed 23 July 2018.
  13. Ján Kadár, "Not the Six Million but the One", criterion.com; accessed 23 July 2018.
  14. Projekt 100. Archived 16 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine .
  15. Roger Greenspun (29 July 1970). "The Angel Levine (1970)". The New York Times.
  16. Kadár interview with Nicholas Pasquariello at American Film Institute; accessed 23 July 2018.