Vilma Bánky (January 9, 1901 March 18, 1991)

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1 Cinema Silence: Saluting Silent Movies Click here to return to Cinema Silence website Vilma Bánky (January 9, 1901 March 18, 1991) Click on this link to watch The Winning of Barbara Worth at YouTube: Vilma Bánky 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. She was best known for her roles in The Eagle and The Son of the Sheik with Rudolph Valentino and for several romantic pairings with Ronald Colman. She was born Vilma Koncsics on January 9, 1901 to János Koncsics and Katalin Ulbert in Nagydorog, Austria-Hungary. Bánky s father was a bureau chief under Franz Joseph's Austro- 1

2 Hungarian Empire. Shortly after her birth, her father was transferred to Budapest and the family relocated. She had two siblings an older brother, Gyula (who would go on to work in Berlin as a writer and cinematographer) and a younger sister, Gisella. After graduation from secondary school, Bánky took courses to work as a stenographer, but was offered a role in a film. Acting had been her interest since she was a young girl. Bánky s first film appearance was in the now lost film, Im Letzten Augenblick, directed by Carl Boese in Germany in 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. 2

3 with Ronald Coleman in The Dark Angel She was hailed as "The Hungarian Rhapsody" and was an immediate hit with American audiences. The New York Times remarked in its review of Bánky s 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 fiancée to believe him dead rather than place what he perceives as the burden on them of a life caring for a blinded war veteran). with Rudolph Valentino in The Son of the Sheik 3

4 She appeared opposite Valentino in The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). It has been said that Valentino was fascinated by Bánky and it was he who chose her as the leading lady in those films. She also appeared with Ronald Colman in a series of love stories, including The Dark Angel and The Winning of Barbara Worth. Vilma Bánky and Rod La Rocque It is a common belief that Bánky s thick, Hungarian accent cut her career short with the advent of sound. While that is certainly a valid point, it has also been speculated that she, quite simply, began losing interest in films. In 1925, Bánky met actor Rod La Rocque at a dinner party at the home of Cecile B. DeMille. They were married in 1927 in a lavish ceremony with DeMille acting as best man. The wedding was attended by the crème de la crème of Hollywood society and there was a reception for 2,000 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Bánky, now more interested in settling down with La Rocque in the role of his wife, began announcing her intention to retire in a few years. 4

5 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 called the Banky La Rocque Foundation, which is still in operation. The Foundation supports programs in the arts, Boys & Girls Clubs, children/youth services, health care, scholarships/financial aid, and the YMCA and YMHA. She and La Rocque had no children and remained married until his death in Vilma Bánky died on March 18, 1991, from cardiopulmonary failure, at the age of 90. When Bánky became ill in late 80s, she was upset with the lack of attention from the media and the public, which may have led to the official notice of her death not being made public made public until late in Her ashes were scattered at sea where her husband's had been. 5

6 Of her twenty-six 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). For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Vilma Bánky has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard. Filmography Year Title (Role) Im letzten Augenblick (unknown) Galathea (unknown) Tavaszi szerelem (unknown) Veszélyben a pokol (unknown) A halott szerelme (unknown) Kauft Mariett-Aktien (unknown) 6

7 Schattenkinder des Glücks (unknown) Das Bildnis (unknown) Das verbotene Land (unknown) Hotel Potemkin (unknown) The Lady from Paris (unknown) King of the Circus (short) (unknown) Soll man heiraten? (unknown( The Dark Angel (Kitty Vane) The Eagle (Miss Mascha Troekouroff) The Son of the Sheik (Yasmin, André's Daughter) The Winning of Barbara Worth (Barbara Worth) Die Dame von Paris (unknown) The Magic Flame (Bianca, the Aerial Artist) The Night of Love (Princess Marie) The Awakening (Marie Ducrot) Two Lovers (Donna Leonora de Vargas) This Is Heaven (Eva Petrie) A Lady to Love (Lena Shultz) Die Sehnsucht jeder Frau (Mizzi) The Rebel (Erika Leroy) 7

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