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by Bamber Gascoigne

Pertti Pasanen (1930-2001)


Film and television producer, director, comedian, scriptwriter, and inventor, whose Uuno Turhapuro (Numbskull Emptybrook) films were highly popular in Finland from the 1970s to the late 1990s. As a comedian Pertti (Spede) Pasanen had Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope as his models. Pasanen made nearly 40 movies, which generally were scorned by critics. The most successful was Uuno Turhapuro armeijan leivissä (1984), starring Vesa-Matti Loiri.

"The Uuno Turhapuro figure, guzzling beer and lolling on his couch like an ape, developed into a sort of prototypical Finnish slob and icon of slothfulness who has come apart at the seams in pace of the blighting of the country." (Peter von Bagh in Drifting Shadows, 2000)

Pertti Pasanen was born in Kuopio, the son of Kusti Pasanen, a district superintendent at Ahlstöm Oy, and Helmi Pasanen, a typits. At the lycée of Kuopio Pasanen was one of the best athletes at his class. In the late 1940s he played ice hockey with Kuopion Eräveikot. Later in life he was ranked as eight best squash player in Finland. Pasanen also wrote sketches for evening entertainment arranged by the students' union. During summer vacations he worked as a reporter for the newspaper Savon Sanomat. However, Pasanen did not plan to become a journalist but make a career in movies. He spent much time in cinema theaters, learning his wisecrack style from Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, and Bob Hope – he even looked like Bob Hope with a beard, and they both shared a passion for golf. Accroding to one source, Pasanen's famous nickname, "Spede", which he started to use already in Kuopio, was invented by his girlfriend. It is also possible that the name derived from his ice hockey career: he was called Speed and the name then changed into Spede.

Pasanen graduated from a secondary school in Iisalmi, where he moved due to constant conflicts with autocratic teachers. In 1950 he worked as a summer staff writer for the newspaper Savon Sanomat. The regular staff members included Simo Puupponen, known under his pseudonym Aapeli. Pasanen and Puupponen, who was a published writer, had a similar sense of humor – they loved wordplays and limping jokes. Pasanen own attemp to become writer failed. His collection of short stories, illustrated by Juha Järveläinen, came back from the publisher.

After serving in the army, Pasanen entered the University of Helsinki in 1953. Pasanen studied political science without much enthusiasm – other activities interested him more. For the student magazine Susj he created advertisements, which sometimes tested the sense of humor of the sponsors. In one cartoon, made for Amer-Tupakka Oy, a tobacco company, he drew a bad looking type, who was smoking some 20 cigarettes at the same time. Gradually the radio work started to take more and more his time. In 1951 Pasanen had won an award with his radio program in a cultural competition arranged by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). He worked occasionally for YLE as sound man, made some 30 programs, wrote a radio play "Kanarialintu", and in 1956 he applied for a position at YLE's entertainment department, without success.

His film career Pasanen started in bit parts. Fennada-Filmi, run by Mikko Mäkelä, employded Spede from the mid-1950s. He also had small roles in popular Pekka Puupää films, produced by Suomen Filmiteollisuus. In Tyttö lähtee kasarmiin (1956), a military comedy, Pasanen had his first voice role. From 1959 to 1964 Pasanen worked on radio as a successor of Niilo Tarvajärvi. There he wrote sketches about a nihilistic parrot, G. Pula-aho, played by Leo Jokela. Pula-Aho spoke the 'Stadi' slang, the everyday language Helsinki. "Mä tutustuin heti kanalan tuotantotilastoon ja huomasin et se kana oli vielä kanalan kovin munimaan. Kolme munaa päivässä ja risat sanoo järki. Kato heti jysähti aivoissa et siinäpä vasta olis ämmää Pula-aholle. Työteliäs tyttö, olis niinku vanhuus turvattu meinaan. Senku istus vaan kylminä talvi-iltoina himassa takkatulen ääressä ja vetäs munakasta naamaansa ku rappari, kattos vaa ettei tapeetille roisku sano. " (in Papukaija G. Pula-Aho, 1964)

Pasanen's first own program was "Aamutuimaan" (in the morning), full of unconventional humor. Some of the radio listeners hated in, some loved. He continued with "Hupiklubi", "Ruljanssiriihi", and other shows, and surprised people with unexpected telephone calls. Spede's ideas caused much worries to his superior, Antero Alpola, and the program director Jussi Koskiluoma. Jukka Virtanen, a pioneer in the Finnish television entertainment, has later told that in private Pasanen was very decent. He drank his first bear at the age of 30 in Germany while on tour, dancing in the role of Don Quixote at the Finnish National Opera ballet. Alcohol was never a part of Pasanen's life, but he was a chain-smoker. From the age of 50, he was constantly on a diet.

For a short time Pasanen dated with Arja Laine, who then married the actor Tommi Rinne. In 1965 Pasanen married Pirjo Vainimäki; they later separated. Pasanen's long-time companion was Riitta Väisänen, miss Europe from 1976. Pasanen did everything in his power to hide their relationship from the press. Väisänen was the speaker of the TV quiz show "Kymppitonni", which started to run in the mid-1980s. It was produced by Pasanen's own company. The affair ended in 1993, but they remained friends. Pasanen's later relationship with Maria Drockila, a young beauty queen, led to some head lines, altough she had a boyfriend closer to her own age. In 1997 she was barely twenty when she became the managing director of Spede-Tuotanto Oy. Vesa-Matti Loiri felt sorry for Pasanen, who obviously wanted more than a mere friendship with her. (Loiri. by Jari Tervo, 2019, p. 320)

In the film Hopeaa rajan takaa (1963) Pasanen played a bohemian student, Toivo Paukku, who crosses with his two friends the border between Finland and Soviet Union to dig up family silvers from Karelia. The director Mikko Niskanen later praised Pasanen's scrupulous attitude towards acting. Niskanen wanted to make another movie with Pasanen, but Toivo Paukku remained Pasanen's last serious role. In the early 1970s Niskanen planned to produce with Filmituotanto Spede Pasanen Hautakivet huipulle, based on Ilmari Eskola's novel Tikapuut huipulle (1960). The film was never realized.

In 1964 Pasanen produced with Risto Jarva's Filminor one of his best films, X-Paroni, where he played a double role as Baron Wilhelm von Tandem, a heir to a large fortune, and his double Kalle, a country boy and inventor. X-Paroni did sound business – it was the No. 1 movie of that year. Pähkähullu Suomi (1967) was produced by his own company, Filmituotanto Spede Pasanen. For television he produced such comedy series as "Spedevisio", "Speden saluuna", "50 pientä minuuttia", "Uuno Turhapuro" and "Speden spelit." In the 1980s Pasanen sold his films to MTV, not to YLE.

Pasanen loved western movies, he knew all the clinches of the genre, and made some western comedies himself. Speedy Gonzales  noin 7 veljeksen poika (1970) had such characters as Bat Masterson, Hoss, referring to to the TV series Bonanza, and Manolito, also referring a TV series, High Chaparal. Spede played a double role as Speedy Gonzales and Mooses Gonzales and sang with Four Cats one of the film's songs, "Haaskalinnut saalistaa", a parody of Enrico Morricone. In music sketches outside films Pasanen's work often showed the influence of Spike Jones. Hirttämättömät (1971), shot in a sand pit near Porvoo, continued the adventures of Speedy Gonzales. Simo Salminen was Tonto and Vesa-Matti Loiri played Lone Ranger. Markku Tuuli in the TV magazine Katso considered the film the last nail on the coffin in Spede's cinematic career. However, Hirttämättömät was the most popular movie of the year.

SPEEDY: Kuules nyt. Se on monta kertaa tämä pyssyn kahvapuoli vaarallisempi kuin tämä etupuoli, etenkin jos on huono ampuja niin kiun sinä... Pannanpas nyt tämä pikku pysseli tämmöiseen pikku pakettiin... näin... ja sitten vähän lakka saumoihin... noin... ja sitten panet tämän paketin laatikkoon ja avaat vasta jouluna. Sillä tavalla elät ainakin jouluun saakka. (from Speedy Gonzales - noin 7 veljeksen poika)

Part of Pasanen's success was his team: Simo Salminen, usually the dull straight guy, Vesa-Matti Loiri, a versatile actor, composer Jaakko Salo, and the writer-directors Jukka Virtanen and Ere Kokkonen. In 1966 Pasanen and Salminen wrote the lyrics for Salminen most famous song, 'Protestilaulu,' which satirized leftist protest songs popular at the time. It was followed by 'Keltainen jäänsärkijä', adapted from the Beatles hit 'Yellow Submarine'. In his producer's role Pasanen actively participated in creating ideas for films. The last film, in which Pasanen played the central role, the toy manufacturer Jim King, was Leikkikalugangsteri (1969). Pohjan tähteet, produced in the same year, was already created around Vesa-Matti Loiri. For a period in the 1960s, Loiri shared a bachelor's apartment with Kokkonen.

Loiri and Pasanen first met at the restaurant Seurahuone in 1967. Pasanen had been turned down for his application for the Union of Finnish Actors, which led them in discussion about their work.  "Spede was a very serious person, too," Loiri later recalled said. "He had high pressures: he had to master comedy, the Spede-image, make new shows and take care of a business handling a large amount of money." (Saisko pluvan, Vesa-Matti Loiri, by Petri Nevalainen, 2010, pp. 92-93) For Pasanen's television shows Loiri created such characters as Nasse-setä, a child-hating, more or less drunken children's program host,  and the big-nosed Jean-Pierre Kusela, parodying the chanson singer Jean-Claude Pascal. Loiri and Pasanen never became friends, but they had a mutual respect for each other, and occasionally sat together in restaurants, and ate and drank together.

In the 1970 Pasanen had become one of the best-known film and television personalities in Finland, but at the same time he was relatively secretive about his personal life. He did not answer inquiries sent by the editors of Who is Who in Finland, and he avoided interviews. However, he was not a recluse. He played golf, often in Spain, with a number of his friends, such as Matti Ahde, the director of Finland's national sports betting organization, and in the 1990s he was regularly seen on TV in his game program, "Speden Spelit". In it he played games with beauty queens and celebrities, proving to be in excellent physical condition at the age of 70. He also developed his inventions in his own workshop, Speden paja – Pasanen had several patents. One of his most famous invenstions was "spede linko", which gave a push for ski jumpers. Perhaps the most peculiar film he ever produced was about the Ice Age. It has never been broadcast on TV. Pasanen was convinced that  the last Ice Age in Finland never existed and collected evidence to support his theory. 

Naisen logiikka (1999), Pasanen's chauvinist last film dealing with differences between male and female ways of thinking, was a total failure. It ran in Helsinki for two weeks and had 232 spectators. Pasanen died of a heart attack on a golfcourse in Sarfvik, Kirkkonummi, on September 7, 2001. Ten days before he had sold sold his production company Spede-Tuotanto Oy to Pankkiiriliike Sofi Oyj.

With Uuno Turhapuro films Pasanen became the most successful independent producer in Finland. The relationship between him and the Finnish Film Foundation was strained especially in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Foundation repeatedly refused to give any financial support to his productions. As a protest Pasanen chopped in 1981 with an ax copies of his early films, rather than to give them to the Film Foundation's archives.

The character Uuno Turhapuro appeared originally in television sketches and was then adapted to screen. The first movie gained a huge success and was followed by 18 other Uuno movies. Occasionally Vesa-Matti Loiri wanted to leave the role and return to the stage in serious plays, but was always persuaded by Pasanen to make one more film. However, Loiri was not seen in Uuno Turhapuron veli (1994), in which Esko Salminen played Uuno's brother. "Kun on kuusi tuntia valveilla ja kahdeksantoista tuntia nukkuu, ei jää paljon vapaa aikaa." (When one sleeps six hours and is awake eighteen hours, there is not much left for free time, in Uuno Turhapuron huikeat poikamiesvuodet maaseudulla, 1990) Kokkonen directed seven Turhapuro comedies, and wrote the screenplay for seven films. Uuno Turhapuro – This Is My Life (2004), written and directed by Kokkonen, was produced after Pasanen's death.

Uuno's tragedy is that he believes his own lies, the joke is that he is taken seriously. He is a shameless hedonist, scruffy, worm-like wriggling do-nothing, a Finnish Oblomov. Often by some coincidence and by his great self-confidence he manages to fulfill his primitive dreams. His refrigerator becomes full of food, he wins money, and is elected President. Uuno wife Elisabeth (Marjatta Raita) is an ordinary Finnish woman, who lives in everyday reality. As a husband Uuno is a fake, which is the source of his constant marital crisis. Pasanen's own character was Härski-Hartinainen, a cynical owner of a garage. Simo Salminen played Härski's friend, Sörsselssön. Cinematically the films looked poor, but it never bothered the audience.

For further information: Spede, nimittäin by Tuomas Marjamäki (2017); Spede by Tommi Aitio (2002); 'Speden tarina siskon kertomana' by Kari Kyheröinen in Seura (19.10.2001); Drifting Shadows by Peter von Bagh (2000); Suomen kansallisfilmografia 9, ed. by Sakari Toiviainen, Arto Haarala et al. (2000); Suomen kansallisfilmografia 8, ed. by Sakari Toiviainen, Arto Haarala et al. (1999); Suomen kansallisfilmografia 7, ed. by Kari Uusitalo, Sakari Toiviainen et al. (1998); 'Viihteen yleismies Pertti Pasanen' by Kimmo Laine in Kansallisgalleria: Suuret suomalaiset, ed. by Allan Tiitta (1997); Yleisradion historia 1926-1996, vol. 2 by Raimo Salokangas (1996); Elon aika by Aarre Elo (1996); U.T. Tutkimusretkiä Uunolandiaan, ed. by Jukka Sihvonen (1991); Viihdevuosien vilinässä by Antero Alpola (1988)

Films and other works (as producer, writer, editor, actor, or director):

  • Ilmatorjunta 23 RUK, 1953 (ed.)
  • Laivan kannella, 1954 (actor)
  • Säkkijärven polkka, 1955 (actor)
  • Sankarialokas, 1955 (actor)
  • Villi pohjola, 1955 (actor)
  • Tyttö tuli taloon, 1956 (actor)
  • Tyttö lähtee kasarmiin, 1956 (actor)
  • Pekka ja Pätkä sammakkomiehinä, 1957 (actor)
  • Pekka ja Pätkä ketjukolarissa, 1957 (actor)
  • Vääpelin kauhu, 1957 (actor)
  • Assessorin naishuolet, 1957 (actor)
  • Pekka ja Pätkä Suez'illa, 1958 (actor)
  • Tervahöyry Hyrskynmyrsky suvisilla laineilla, 1959 (radio program; script, actor)
  • Ei ruumita makuuhuoneeseen, 1959 (actor)
  • Hyvää iltaa, tulkaa mukaan, 1959-60 (radio program; script, actor)
  • Hupiklubi, 1960-64 (script, actor)
  • Mullin mallin, 1961 (actor)
  • Taape tähtenä, 1962 (actor)
  • Papukaija G. Pula-Aho, 1962 (EP, script, Spede, Leo Jokela, Pertti Weckström)
  • Hopeaa rajan takaa, 1963 (actor - based on Esa Anttala's novel from 1961)
  • X-Paroni, 1964 (co-prod., co-script, co-dir. with Jaakko Pakkasvirta and Risto Jarva)
  • Spede Show, 1964 (script, actor)
  • Spede & G. Pula-Aho, 1964 (EP, script, actor with Leo Jokela)
  • Papukaija G. Pula-Ahon seikkailuja, 1964 (book)
  • Spede & G. Pula-Aho: Huvittava levy, suorastaan naurettava, 1965 (EP, script, Spede, Leo  Jokela, Eija Inkeri)
  • Speden Saluuna, 1965 (TV show; script, actor)
  • Spedevisio, 1965-70 (script with Ere Kokkonen and Jukka Virtanen, actor)
  • G. Pula-Aho & Spede, 1965 (LP, script, actor with Leo Jokela)
  • Rotestilaulu / Pronomini-rock, 1966 (single, with Simo Salminen)
  • Keltsainen jäänsärkijä / Raikulipoika, 1966 (single, with Simo Salminen)
  • Millipilleri, 1966 (prod., co-script, co-dir. with Ere Kokkonen, Jukka Virtanen)
  • Pähkähullu Suomi, 1967 (prod., co-script, actor, dir. by Jukka Virtanen)
  • 50 pientä minuuttia, 1967-71 (TV show; script, actor)
  • Punahilkka, 1968 (prod., with Jörn Donner and Arno Carlstedt)
  • Noin seitsemän veljestä, 1968 (prod., co-script, actor, dir. by Jukka Virtanen)
  • Heititpäs huulen / Jos kuusi kertaa sun pyssys laukeaa, 1969 (single, Spede, Vesa-Matti Loiri, Tarja-Tuulikki Tarsala)
  • Näköradiomiehen ihmeelliset siekailut, 1969 (prod., co-script, dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Leikkikalugangsteri, 1969 (prod., co-script, actor, dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Pohjan tähteet, 1969 (prod., actor, co-script, dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Näköradiomiehen ihmeelliset siekailut, 1969 (EP, several actors)
  • Haaskalinnut saalistaa / Hämeen hitain, 1970m (single, with Simo Salminen)
  • Ilmavoimissa 1-2, 1970 (single; prod., script, actor, with Leo Jokela)
  • Kauneushoitolassa, 1970 (single; prod., script, actor, with Leo Jokela)
  • G. Pula-aho Pariisissa, 1970 (LP; prod., script, actor, with Leo Jokela)
  • Jussi Pussi, 1970 (prod., dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Speedy Gonzales - noin 7 veljeksen poika, 1970 (prod., co-script, actor, dir. by Ere Kokkonen, ) - screenplay: Speedy Gonzales - noin 7 veljeksen poika, co-written with Ere Kokkonen, Vesa-Matti Loiri, pub. by Weilin+Göös, 1970)
  • Kahdeksas veljes, 1971 (prod., script, actor, dir.)
  • Saatanan radikaalit, 1971 (prod., dir. by Heikki Huopainen, Heikki Nousiainen, Paavo Piironen, Timo Nissi)
  • Hirttämättömät, 1971 (prod., script, actor, co-dir. with Vesa-Matti Loiri)
  • Puhelimessa 1-2, 1971 (single; prod., script, actor, with Leo Jokela)
  • Ajatelmia 1-2, 1971 (single; prod., script, actor, with Leo Jokela)
  • Spede Show, 1971-74 (TV show, script, actor)
  • Uuno Turhapuro, 1973 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Viu-hah hah-taja, 1974 (prod., co-script, actor, dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Professori Uuno D.G. Turhapuro, 1975 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Lottovoittaja UKK Turhapuro, 1976 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Häpy Enkö? Eli kuinka Uuno Turhapuro sai niin kauniin ja rikkaan vaimon, 1977 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Rautakauppias Uuno Turhapuro - presidentin vävy, 1978 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Koeputkiaikuinen ja Simon enkelit, 1979 (prod., script, actor, dir.)
  • Tup akka lakko, 1980 (prod., script, co-music, actor, dir.)
  • Uuno Turhapuron avioliittokriisi, 1981 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Pölhölä, 1981 (prod., script, dir. by Pertti Reponen, Heikki Kinnunen)
  • Uuno Turhapuro menettää muistinsa, 1982 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Spede Show, 1982 (prod., actor)
  • Uuno Turhapuron muisti palailee pätkittäin, 1983 (prod., script, actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Lentävät luupäät, 1984 (prod., dir.)
  • Practical English in Practice, 1984 (prod. script, actor)
  • Uuno Turhapuro armeijan leivissä, 1984 (prod., actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Spede-Show, 1984-87 (TV show; script, actor)
  • Kliffaa hei!, 1985 (prod., actor, dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Open the Door, Please!, 1985 (prod., script, actor)
  • Kymppitonni, 1985-2001 (prod.)
  • Uuno Epsanjassa, 1985 (prod., actor, ir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle, 1986 (prod., actor, dir by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Liian iso keikka, 1986 (prod.)
  • Pikkupojat, 1986 (prod., actor)
  • Uuno Turhapuro - kaksoisagentti, 1987 (prod., script, actor, dir.)
  • Fakta homma, 1987 (prod., dir. by Jukka Virtanen)
  • Vesku Show, 1987-91 (TV show; prod., actor)
  • Tupla-Uuno, 1988 (prod., script, actor, dir. by Hannu Seikkula)
  • Onks Viljoo näkyny?, 1988 (prod., dir. by Hannu Seikkula)
  • 1988-89 (TV show; prod., host)
  • Pulttibois, 1989-91 (TV show; prod.)
  • Spedestroikka, 1989-90 (TV show; prod., host)
  • Speden sallitut leikit, 1990-92 (TV show; prod., host)
  • Uunon huikeat poikamiesvuoden maaseudulla, 1990 (prod., script, actor, dir. by Pertti Melasniemi)
  • Rampe & Naukkis - kaikkien aikojen superpari, 1990 (prod., dir. by Hannu Seikkula)
  • Uuno Turhapuro - Herra helsingin herra, 1991 (prod., actor, dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Uuno Turhapuro - Suomen tasavallan herra presidentti, 1992 (prod., actor, dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • Speden Spelit, 1992-2001 (TV show; prod., host)
  • Uuno Turhapuron poika, 1993 (prod., script, dir.)
  • Romanovin kivet, 1993 (prod., dir. by Aleksi Mäkelä)
  • Tsa Tsa Tsaa, 1993-94 (TV show; prod.)
  • Uuno Turhapuron veli, 1994 (prod., dir. by Hannu Seikkula)
  • Pekko ja poika, 1994 (prod., dir. by Timo Koivusalo)
  • Blondi tuli taloon, 1994-95 (prod.)
  • Bingolotto, 1995-2001 (TV show; prod.)
  • Uuno Turhapuro ja viimeinen tuomio, 1995 (script, with Hannu Reunamäki)
  • Ihmeidentekijät, 1996-98 (TV show; prod.)
  • Johtaja Uuno Turhapuro - pisnismies, 1998 (prod., dir. by Ere Kokkonen)
  • G. Pula-Aho Pariisissa, 1998 (CD, in Huumorimiehiä)
  • Spede & G. Pula-aho: Pure nenääs! - Kaikki sketsit ja seikkailut 1960-1964, 2001 (CD, 2 records)
  • Naisen logiikka, 2002 (CD, with Hannele Lauri, (prod., script, actor with Hannele Lauri, dir.)
  • Spede show - pääasia että on kivaa, 1965-1972, 2005 (DVD, dir. by Jukka Virtanen, Ere Kokkonen, Inkeri Pilkama)

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