4 Revue Numbers

1940-74 Se tidslinje

By Lone Nyhuus, journalist, former dancer and choreographer, 2006

Can a song change the world? 

Yes, it can. And if it can’t, then the hope is at least that it does. In 1957, Osvald Helmuth appeared on stage as Nielsen, a small-time draper from Aaboulevarden, and presented his letter to the Russian Prime Minister Bulganin. With downplayed humour, Nielsen’s problems with a leaking roof from which water dropped down onto his pickled cucumbers were drawn into the cold war of the superpowers. These problems became Nielsen’s (and Helmuth’s) argument as to why Bulganin should promise that there would not be a war... 

... to have an opinion 

Before Helmuth’s song, Liva Weel sang Poul Henningsen’s (PH) They bind us hand and mouth, in the spring of 1940. “If the song is to be a weapon, as it has always been, also in issues of high policy, then you must both amuse and have an opinion,” wrote PH in the catalogue of the performance. He had been forced to alter a considerable part of the text due to the censorship that accompanied the German occupation of Denmark during World War II.

Through Liva Weel and her way of presenting the song, he still said what he wanted to say: “... you cannot bind spirit” and “We have an inner fortification here” were some of the words that first silenced the audience, then had them up on their feet to give the artists a standing ovation. From that moment the song had changed the world. 

... to amuse 

With Kellerdirk’s Schoolmates, 1956, and Dirch Passer’s The finger act, 1974, the intention to change the world - to have an opinion - has been pushed in the background in favour of the wish to amuse. Both Kjeld Petersen and Dirch Passer were born comedians. Together they were the born comedy duo: Petersen as the short, dynamically working whirlwind and Passer as a colossus of gigantic immovability. In the sketch Schoolmates we follow them through the changing situations of a conversation. From the time they meet and think they are old schoolmates until, six minutes later, they discover they are not.
In The finger act, a rhythmical and gibberish-spouting Dirch Passer folds out the story of a man and his discovery of his powerful fingers. Everybody knows fingers: we all have them - as many as ten. But Passer’s fingers are fantastic. Apart from the usual features, they also contain a wealth of surprises. Can be hidden, turn up again, be halved, become spectacles - and raise or lower the level of his voice. 

Kjeld Petersen and Dirch Passer in the revue Kellerdirk from 1960. Photo: Erik Petersen / Scanpix.
Kanon: Kellerdirk; Petersen, Kjeld skuespiller, Passer, Dirch skuespiller
Osvald Helmuth and Max Hansen in front of the ticket sales at the Glass Hall. They performed together in the Tivoli Revue in 1957, where Helmuth delivered the number, the Letter to Bulganin. Photo: Willy Henriksen / Scanpix.
Max Hansen, Osvald Helmuth
Performing Arts

The 4 Revue Numbers

Man binder os på mund og hånd
Performed in 
1940 in the revue comedy Dyveke in Riddersalen.
Sung by Liva Weel (1897-1952).
Text: Poul Henningsen (1894-1967).
Melody: Kai Normann Andersen (1900-1967). 


Performed in 1956 in revue ABC for viderekomne at ABC Teatret. 

played by Dirch Passer (1926-1980) and Kjeld Petersen (1920-1962).
Text: Børge Müller (1909-1963).

Brev til Bulganin

Performed in 1957 in Tivoli revue Midt i byen in Tivoli Teatret.
played by Osvald Helmuth (1894-1966).
Written and composed by Gerhard Bronner (f. 1922).
Translated by Arvid Müller (1906-1964).


Performed in 1974 in Cirkus Revue in Cirkusteltet, Dyrehaven, Klampenborg.
played by Dirch Passer (1926-1980).
Idea: Preben Kaas (1930-1981) according to the program for Cirkusrevyen 1974.

After the Cultural Canon's publication, doubts have arisen as to who is the author of the "Fingernummeret", since an American comedian - Mr. Art Metrano (born September 22, 1936) - in connection with the dissemination of the cultural canon, has made the Ministry of Culture aware that in 1969 he for the first time performed a similar number in a TV show in the United States. However, the Ministry of Culture does not have the opportunity to decide who is the right author of the number.

The committee's justification

By The Committee for Performing Arts, 2006

The revue’s great actors are chosen because they represent a genre that, then and now, fills us with enthusiasm and moves us. Kjeld and Dirch for their jazz collaboration, Liva Weel and Osvald Helmuth as soloists and masters of folk music, and Dirch Passer alone, because he is one of the most modern comedians we have ever had. ‘Man binder os på mund og hånd’ was sung by Liva Weel with her ever-present naturalness in the 1940 revue comedy ‘Dyveke’. The lyrics contained a clear dissociation with the German occupying powers in such a subtle way that even they did not realise it. The song is a perfect example of how, through the revue genre, it is possible to relate seriously to political subjects in such a way that it resonates far out into the future. 

In 1957’s ‘Brevet til Bulganin’, Osvald Helmuth entertains us brilliantly by mixing high politics with the everyday problems of the little man. The lyrics are sharp and filled with humour and performed masterfully in an unsurpassed, understated and almost melancholy manner.
Dirch Passer is a hero among actors. Many actors try to find the core that Dirch found: The personal style, the characteristic but also absolutely malleable form. When listening to Dirch, no one is in any doubt that dialogue is music. Both alone and together with other artists, his comic talent was unique: ‘Skolekammerater’ and ‘Fingernummeret’ have timing, presence, anarchy, madness and truth – we can only be in awe. Dirch is a clear example that even the best piece of drama can be ripped to shreds in the wrong hands – and the purest nonsense can become golden in the right ones.


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