A kind of Stan and Bran of Romania, they brought Romanian humour to the cinema for the first time: Stroe and Vasilache and the first Romanian film with sound

Although today, the names Stroe and Vasilache don’t say much, at the time, the two comedians were highly appreciated in their field by critics and audiences alike.

They lived and worked in the interwar period, and their situational comedy had a lot in common with that of other world comedy greats such as Stan and Bran, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

Stroe and Vasilache
Stroe and Vasilache, comedians of times gone by – archive image

Stroe and Vasilache, these “Stan and Bran” of Romania

Stroe and Vasilache were a sensation at the time in the revue theatres of the capital. And rightly so, since the comedians were able to get a roar of laughter wherever they went.

“Two nice and… good boys, who have risen through hard work, helped, of course, by their beautiful talent. Stroe, a cheeky, lively, cheerful, always smiling, always in a good mood.

Vasilache, with his 19-piece orchestra, a skilled musician and a comic. They started out unpretentious and made a name for themselves all the more so because they only tried to get to the front rows when the audience asked them to. Stroe and Vasilache were not imposed on them by any theatre director or under-secretary of state. The public imposed them. And this is the most beautiful of their victories” – this is how the two artists were presented in the magazine Realitatea ilustrată, in an issue of 1934.

So likeable and appreciated were the two that at one point even the Flame would write about them: “One day, while Maximilian’s company was preparing a new show at the Oteteleșanu garden, the need arose for a pianist to play a few chords from backstage. Fory Eterle brought him in: he was a thin, short, shy boy, a student at the

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Law, it seems, whom you might never have noticed if he hadn’t had a strange, dramatic, sad-clown grin plastered on his face.

He would play the few musical phrases quietly on the piano, but when the show was over, he would improvise for himself or for his colleagues a whole surprising concert: accompanying himself on the piano, he would play from his mouth or imitate the most unexpected instructions, the hawaiana, the castanets, the trumpet.

The former valet was called Stroe; the new one, Vasilache. It was around 1930. They met and never parted. This is not the title of a fashionable slogan of the time, but the truth of the day when the two young actors presented their first comedy-musical sketch together at the “Artistic Circle” on Câmpineanu, Stroe parodying his colleagues in a friendly way, Vasilache playing the piano and singing from his mouth, and their friendship and collaboration never broke up”, it was written in 1958, about the two comedians, Stroe and Vasilache.

stroe-and-vasilache-comics-flacara
Stroe and Vasilache, comedians of times gone by – image from the newspaper Flacăra

The first Romanian film with sound belonged to the two comedians

Despite being made in 1934, Bing Bang was not released until 1935, enjoying monumental success in cinemas.

Public curiosity towards the first sound film seemed unstoppable, so we can’t imagine a different situation. Imagine, for example, what it was like in 2009 when Avatar was released and adapt the situation to the interwar years.

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After years of viewers only being able to see the actors, with atmospheric music in the background, they could now even hear their voices, which was extraordinary – a true miracle of old technology.

Bing Bang marked the debut of the comic couple who later became famous.

Stroe and Vasilache were already well known at that time in revue shows, but not necessarily as film actors.

According to the scanarium, Bing Bang tells the story of two unemployed people from Bucharest, Nicolae Stroe (Bing) and Vasile Vasilache (Bang), two characters who were to write history in the Romanian sound film industry.

At the time, 300,000 lei were spent on this film (at the exchange rate of the time), some of this money coming from the pockets of the two actors. Obviously, their efforts were fully rewarded.

Even so, before being shown at the National Military Circle, it should be mentioned that the film of the two faced great difficulties, with all 50 cinemas in interwar Bucharest refusing to deal with Stroe, Vasilache and their revolutionary film.

To the actors’ great good fortune, it seems the recipe worked out well in the end, even if it had a less than smooth road to glory. It’s all in the perseverance.

Without a doubt, Bing Bang is said to be the first Romanian film in which the Romanian language can actually be heard – which is, in itself, a piece of history.

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