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Frick & Frack

One of the more popular genres of touring entertainers of the 1930s were professional ice skating shows.  They still exist today, but at one time they were far more popular, and a number of professional ice skating companies would tour the United States regularly.  There were the the Ice Cycles, Holiday on Ice, the Ice Capades, and the Ice Follies, among others.  They would tour from city to city, and drew audiences as well as any other form of live entertainment of the day.  The Ice Follies were even popular enough to be featured in the Joan Crawford film The Ice Follies of 1939, produced by MGM studios as an answer to the popular ice skating films of ice skating star Sonja Henie.

The Ice Follies featured large, elaborate productions, pooling the talents of numerous ice skating stars of the day.  It followed the structure of circus shows, with large, impressive numbers punctuated with smaller acts.  One of the smaller acts was a novelty skating team from Switzerland that combined the talents of Werner Groebli and Hansruedi Mauch, popularly known as Frick & Frack.

Publicity photo of Frick (right) & Frack (left) from the 1930s.
Their stage (rink?) names were their own inventions.  Frick is the name of a small village in Switzerland; Frack is the Swiss German word for a frock coat, which he wore during the early days of his performances on ice.  The pairing of the names was explained by Michael Mauch, the son of Frack: “They put the words together as a typical Swiss joke.”  (Humor does not always translate very well from one language to another.)

The two skaters operated as a team until Frack’s retirement in 1953.  Frick continued to skate professionally as “Mr. Frick”, though he skated with other partners throughout his career.  Frack died in 1979, and Frick was forced into retirement in 1980 by an accident.  Frick died in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2008.

The duo’s names have made their way into the English language.  The term “Frick and Frack” is often used to describe two people who are always together, sometimes to the point where you can’t tell one from the other.  The expression is still widely used by people who have never seen the pair’s performances, or who are even aware that it’s a reference to real people.

Read more about Mr. Frick in this book, available on the website of your favorite massive online retailer.

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