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Vilma Bánky in 1930
January 9, 1901
Nagydorog, Tolna County, Austria-Hungary (present-day Nagydorog, Republic of Hungary)
|Died||March 18, 1991
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Rod La Rocque (m. 1927–69) (his death)|
Vilma Bánky (January 9, 1901 – March 18, 1991) was a Hungarian-born American silent film actress, although the early part of her acting career began in Budapest, spreading to France, Austria, and Germany. Banky was best known for her roles in The Eagle and The Son of the Sheik with Rudolph Valentino and several romantic teamings with Ronald Colman.
She was born Vilma Koncsics on January 9, 1901 to János (later John; 1875-1948) and Katalin (née Ulbert) Koncsics (1880-1947) in Nagydorog, Austria-Hungary. Her father was a bureau chief in Franz Joseph's Austro-Hungarian Empire. Shortly after her birth, her father as a police sergeant was transferred to Budapest, and the family relocated. She had two siblings – an older brother, Gyula (who would later go on to work in Berlin as a writer and cinematographer), and a younger sister, Gisella. After graduation from secondary school, Bánky (as she would later be known) took courses to work as a stenographer, but was offered a role in a film.
Her first film appearance was in the now lost film, Im Letzten Augenblick (In the last moment), directed by Carl Boese in Germany in 1919. On a trip to Budapest in 1925, Hollywood film producer Samuel Goldwyn discovered and signed her to a contract. Both her mother and father were vehemently against Bánky's acting career as was her fiancé; nonetheless she left for the United States in March 1925, arriving to a great deal of fanfare.
She was hailed as "The Hungarian Rhapsody" and was an immediate hit with American audiences. The New York Times remarked in its review of her first American film, The Dark Angel, that she "is a young person of rare beauty ... so exquisite that one is not in the least surprised that she is never forgotten by Hillary Trent" (the movie's leading male character who decides to allow his family and fiancee to believe him dead rather than place what he perceives as the burden on them of a life caring for a blinded war veteran).
She appeared opposite silent great Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926) It is said that Valentino was fascinated by Vilma, and it was he who chose her as the first lady in the films and Ronald Colman in a series of love stories, including The Dark Angel and The Winning of Barbara Worth. It is commonly believed that her thick Hungarian accent cut her career short with the advent of sound; however, she began losing interest in films and wanted to settle down with Rod La Rocque and simply be his wife. By 1928, she had begun announcing her intention to retire in a few years.
Of her twenty-four films, eight exist in their entirety (Hotel Potemkin, Der Zirkuskönig [aka The King of the Circus with Max Linder], The Son of the Sheik, The Eagle, The Winning of Barbara Worth, The Night of Love, A Lady to Love, and The Rebel), and three exist in fragments (Tavaszi szerelem in scattered bits, the first five reels of The Magic Flame, and an incomplete copy of Two Lovers).
Her post Hollywood years were spent selling real estate with her husband and playing golf, her favorite sport. In 1981, Bánky established an educational fund, The Banky–La Rocque Foundation.
Personal life and death
Vilma Bánky died on March 18, 1991, from cardiopulmonary failure, aged 90, but notice of her death was not made public until the following year. She was reportedly upset that no one had come to visit her in her last years, and directed her lawyer to make no mention of her death. Her ashes were scattered at sea where her husband's had been consigned.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Vilma Bánky has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
|1919||Im letzten Augenblick|
|1921||Veszélyben a pokol|
|1922||Schattenkinder des Glücks|
|1922||Halott szerelme, AA Halott szerelme||Alternative title: Das Auge des Toten|
|1923||Bildnis, DasDas Bildnis||Alternative title: L'image|
|1924||Zirkuskönig, DerDer Zirkuskönig||Alternative title: King of the Circus|
|1924||letzte Stunde, DieDie letzte Stunde||Alternative title: Hotel Potemkin|
|1924||verbotene Land, DasDas verbotene Land||Alternative title: Das Leben des Dalai Lama|
|1924||The Wonderful Adventure||Alternative title: Das schöne Abenteuer|
|1925||Dark Angel, TheThe Dark Angel||Kitty Vane|
|1925||Soll man heiraten?||Alternative title: Intermezzo einer Ehe in sieben Tagen|
|1925||Eagle, TheThe Eagle||Miss Mascha Troekouroff||Credited as Vilma Banky|
|1926||Son of the Sheik||Yasmin, André's Daughter||Credited as Vilma Banky|
|1926||Winning of Barbara Worth, TheThe Winning of Barbara Worth||Barbara Worth|
|1927||Night of Love, TheThe Night of Love||Princess Marie|
|1927||The Magic Flame||Bianca, the Aerial Artist|
|1927||Dame von Paris, DieDie Dame von Paris||Alternative title: The Lady from Paris|
|1928||Two Lovers||Donna Leonora de Vargas|
|1928||Awakening, TheThe Awakening||Marie Ducrot|
|1929||This is Heaven||Eva Petrie|
|1930||A Lady to Love||Lena Shultz|
|1930||Sehnsucht jeder Frau, DieDie Sehnsucht jeder Frau||Mizzi|
|1933||Rebel, TheThe Rebel||Erika Leroy|
- Schildgen, Rachel A. More Than a Dream: Rediscovering the Life & Films of Vilma Banky; ISBN 978-0-9827709-2-4.
- Hungarian civil registration document from Nagydorog, available through LDS records; film number 1793002 Items 4–5
- The New York Times Directory of Film, 'The Dark Angel' film review by Mordaunt Hall, October 12, 1925, p. 17, Arno Press and Random House, USA, 1971
- "Vilma Banky, Hollywood Star With Short but Influential Career". The New York Times. 1992-12-12. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
- Donnelley, Paul (2003-06-01). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (2 ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vilma Bánky.|
- Vilma Bánky at the Internet Movie Database
- Vilma Bánky at AllMovie
- Vilma Bánky: Hungarian Rhapsody
- Information on Vilma Bánky (in Hungarian)
- Photographs of Vilma Bánky
- Vilma Bánky profile at NYPL Gallery
- Vilma Bánky at Find a Grave