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Vilma Bánky

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Vilma Bánky
Bánky in 1929
Born(1901-01-09)9 January 1901[1]
Died18 March 1991(1991-03-18) (aged 90)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1919–1933
(m. 1927; died 1969)

Vilma Bánky (born Vilma Koncsics;[2] 9 January 1901 – 18 March 1991) was a Hungarian-American silent film actress. Although her acting career began in Budapest, and she later worked in France, Austria, and Germany, Bánky was best known for her roles in the American films The Eagle and The Son of the Sheik with Rudolph Valentino, and for several romantic teamings with Ronald Colman.

Early life

Bánky was born on 9 January 1901[2] to János Bánky Koncsics and his German wife, Katalin Ulbert, 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.[citation needed]


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"[3] (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
Vilma Bánky, 1920s

She appeared opposite silent film star Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). Valentino reportedly was fascinated by Vilma, and 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 is commonly believed that her thick Hungarian accent led, with the advent of sound, to her career being cut short; 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.[citation needed]

Personal life and death

Bánky and husband Rod La Rocque in 1927
Bánky and husband Rod La Rocque in 1927

She married actor Rod La Rocque in 1927; they remained married until his death in 1969. The couple had no children.[4]

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.[4][5] 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.[6]


Year Title Role Notes
1919 Im letzten Augenblick
1921 Veszélyben a pokol Aurora
Tavaszi szerelem
Galatea Galathea
1922 Schattenkinder des Glücks Helen Blaas
Kauft Mariett-Aktien
A Halott szerelme Alternative title: Das Auge des Toten
1923 The Portrait Alternative title: L'image
1924 Die letzte Stunde Mabel Alternative title: Hotel Potemkin
Das verbotene Land Alternative title: Das Leben des Dalai Lama
Der Zirkuskönig Ketty Alternative title: King of the Circus
The Wonderful Adventure Bessy Ferguson Alternative title: Das schöne Abenteuer
1925 The Dark Angel Kitty Vane Lost film
Soll man heiraten? Alternative title: Intermezzo einer Ehe in sieben Tagen
The Eagle Miss Mascha Troekouroff Credited as Vilma Banky
1926 Son of the Sheik Yasmin, André's Daughter Credited as Vilma Banky
The Winning of Barbara Worth Barbara Worth
1927 The Night of Love Princess Marie
The Magic Flame Bianca, the Aerial Artist Lost film, although the first five reels are rumored to exist
Die Dame von Paris Alternative title: The Lady from Paris
1928 Two Lovers Donna Leonora de Vargas Incomplete film
The Awakening Marie Ducrot Lost film
1929 This Is Heaven Eva Petrie
1930 A Lady to Love Lena Shultz
Die Sehnsucht jeder Frau Mizzi
1933 The Rebel Erika Leroy Final film role


  • Schildgen, Rachel A. More Than a Dream: Rediscovering the Life & Films of Vilma Banky; ISBN 978-0-9827709-2-4.


  1. ^ National Archives of Hungary: microfilm 30790, image 291, fiche 3.
  2. ^ a b Hungarian civil registration document from Nagydorog, available through LDS records; film number 1793002 Items 4–5
  3. ^ The New York Times Directory of Film, 'The Dark Angel' film review by Mordaunt Hall, 12 October 1925, p. 17, Arno Press and Random House, USA, 1971
  4. ^ a b "Vilma Banky, Hollywood Star With Short but Influential Career". The New York Times. 12 December 1992. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  5. ^ Donnelley, Paul (1 June 2003). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (2nd ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5.
  6. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Vilma Bánky". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
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