Lemonade Joe: soft-drink purveying cowboy and cult Czech figure
‘Limonádový Joe’ (Lemonade Joe) is a cult sixties Czech western cum musical about a lemonade salesman in the Wild West. The film started life as column in a newspaper written by Jiří Brdečka during the war, before becoming a theatre play, and then finally the all-singing, all-dancing, film production Czechs know and love today. Tereza Brdečková is a film critic and the daughter of Jiří Brdečka, the man who conceived the movie:
“It was this crazy story about a gunman who is very angelic and drinks only lemonade, and all of the cheap stuff around that – like a bad guy, a good guy, a beautiful, angelic girl and a devilish woman femme fatale and things like that.
“But what happened somehow at the end of the war was that this became very popular, and there was a small theatre here on Národní Třída, where we are sitting now, and it was put on stage there for the first time. It was the end of the war, and it really was extremely popular – I mean, the Germans had nothing against it, it was just for fun. They didn’t give a damn that it was about the Americans. And this stage production was very important, because all of the things that you see in the film and in subsequent theatrical productions have the same roots.
One of the members of the original cast from the play to make it into the film was Květa Fialová. She played the bad girl – Tornado Lou – a nightclub singer and woman of ill repute, in what many regard as one of her best performances. Tereza Brdečková again:
Květa Fialová, who is now in her seventies, definitely seemed to sink her teeth into the role:
“I was happy that I played in this film, and that I did other things with the director, Oldřich Lipský. We got the chance to travel quite a lot with this film, and there was this one time when we went to Columbia in South America to get a prize. There were prizes for camera work, for best director and so forth, and we got the prize for having come from furthest away.”
Tereza Brdečková thinks the film's popularity lies in the fact that it was, in her view, very much ahead of its time:
“For the film, they built a special village in Barrandov studios, which I think is still there, and people can go and see it – it looks absolutely authentic. And the outdoor shots were done around Karlštejn castle were there is a very stony landscape, which is really rocky and, by the way, it has been called ‘Amerika’ since the 19th century. So, it was shot there.”
Lemonade Joe was recently brought out on DVD with English subtitles. Watch it for a rather surreal viewing experience, and a good old sing-along.