Vilma Bánky

Intro Hungarian-Americanfilm actress
A.K.A. Vilma Banky
Was Actor Film actor
From United States of America Hungary
Type Film, Television, Stage and Radio
Gender female
Birth 9 January 1901, Nagydorog, Hungary
Death 18 March 1991, Los Angeles, USA (aged 90 years)
Star sign Capricorn

Vilma Bánky (born Vilma Koncsics; 9 January 1901 – 18 March 1991) was a Hungarian-American silent film actress, although the early part of her acting career began in Budapest, spreading to France, Austria, and Germany. Bánky 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.

Early life

Bánky was born on 9 January 1901 to János Bánky Koncsics (1875–1948) and his wife, Katalin Ulbert (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, a police sergeant was transferred to Budapest, and the family relocated. She had two siblings – an older brother, Gyula and a younger sister, Gizella. 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 (1925), 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). Vilma Bánky, 1920s She appeared opposite silent great Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). Valentino reportedly was fascinated by Vilma, and he chose her as the leading lady in the films. She also appeared opposite Ronald Colman in a series of love stories, including The Dark Angel and The Winning of Barbara Worth. It commonly is 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 24 films, eight exist in their entirety (Hotel Potemkin, Der Zirkuskönig [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).

Post-acting career

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

Bánky and husband Rod La Rocque in 1927 She married actor Rod La Rocque in 1927; they remained married until his death in 1969. They had no children. Bánky died on 18 March 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 contributions to the film industry, Bánky received a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Her star is located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.

In popular culture

She is mentioned in Stephen Sondheim's early musical Saturday Night. Her name is also brought up in the Gloria Swanson vehicle "Sunset Boulevard" along with that of her husband, Rod La Rocque. In the 1971 film They Might Be Giants, a psychiatric patient who believes he is Rudolph Valentino is told "my best to Vilma Bánky".

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