Czech acting legend Josef Abrhám dies at age 82

Best known for his role in "Run, Waiter, Run!" Abrhám was married to Czech "Cinderella" Libuše Šafránková until her death in 2021.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 17.05.2022 11:04:00 (updated on 20.05.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czech actor Josef Abrhám has died at the age of 82. The actor, a veteran of stage and screen, leaves behind a legacy of theatrical and film roles, though he was perhaps best known for his role in "Run, Waiter, Run!" (Vrchní, prchni, 1980), in which he played a man posing as a waiter. Abrhám was married to Czech actor and "Cinderella" star Libuše Šafránková, who also appeared in the film, for over 40 years until her death in 2021.

Abrhám was born in December 1939 in Zlín. After two semesters at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava he transferred to the Prague DAMU and eventually went on to play in the Vinohrady Theater in Prague. 

His first film was Věra Chytilová's 1961 student film "Strop" (Ceiling). In total, he made more than fifty films, and received the Czech Lion for his role as a police officer in Jan Hřebjk's "Šakalí léta" (Big Beat) from 1993. His last major film role was as St. Joseph in the fairy tale "Angel of the Lord 2." In 2020, he received the Thalia Award for his lifetime achievement in drama. 

"Run, Waiter, Run!" (Vrchní, prchni, 1980)

Abrhám spent thirty years of his career at the Činoherní klub in Prague where he met Šafránková. The couple married in 1976. They would go on to appear on the screen together in an number of roles including the romantic comedy "The Wedding Journey to Jiljí (1983)."

The pair remained inseparable until Šafránková's sudden death on June 9, 2021; it is speculated that the actor's health went into decline following the death of his wife. Although he reportedly suffered from cardiovascular issues in recent years.

Abrhám is survived by his son, Josef and several grandchildren.

Czech social media feeds filled up with tributes to the actor this morning. Czech Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan tweeted: "Josef Abrhám was my absolute favorite among Czech actors. Original acting style, strong personality, zero tabloid exhibition. He will be missed. Thanks for the many joys...he brought. Sincere condolences to all loved ones."

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Many fans shared clips from the beloved “Vrchní, prchni!” which tells the tale of a man (Abrhám) who goes to fancy restaurants and poses as a waiter so he can steal money from unsuspecting customers.

Abrhám's co-star in that film Zdenek Svěrák had a minor role, as a busybody neighbor with a backfiring Velorex. The film has such an important place in Czech culture it was recently immortalized by the city of Prague which named a new bus stop in Žižkov after a memorable scene from the film.

“Vrchní, prchni!” is currently streaming on Czech Netflix as are several other titles the actor appeared in including "Kráska v nesnázích" (Beauty in Trouble) from 2006.

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