Vilma Bￃﾡnky (January 9, 1901 ￢ﾀﾓ 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 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
Of her twenty-four films, eight exist in their entirety
(Hotel Potemkin, Der Zirkuskￃﾶnig [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).
She married actor Rod La Rocque in 1927; they remained
married until his death in 1969. They had no children.
Vilma Bￃﾡnky 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.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Vilma
Bￃﾡnky has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.