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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Picture People Born On This Day --- Vilma Banky


It’s 108 years ago today that Hungarian silent star Vilma Banky was born. She bowed out after a few talkies --- seems she had a pretty thick accent, and besides, fashions change, and her sort of vehicles was on their way out as well. She made some interesting silents with Ronald Colman, but little of that survives, thanks to Sam Goldwyn’s ex-wife having junked the prints and negatives many years ago (she ended up with these assets after the divorce). Vilma did two good ones with Rudolph Valentino (The Eagle and Son Of The Sheik) and they’re both still around. She married actor Rod LaRoque in one of those legendarily extravagant Hollywood "event" weddings. LaRoque said years later that a lot of the food was fake, right out of the studio prop department. They stayed married for the rest of his life, over 40 years. I read an interview with him once, done in the 60’s. He sounded like a well-grounded guy (Rod LaRoque was his real name), and did a nice job of revealing the utter stupidity of the biz in those way-gone days. Both he and Vilma had gotten out before the end of the thirties, so they had a lot of good years together living in the real world (Rod spent those selling real estate). I always thought that was kind of neat. After he died, Vilma appears to have gone it alone from then on, consistently refusing to attend revivals of her films, or to talk about the picture days. Too bad. They would have treated her like an oracle at those screenings and conventions (now that I think of it, maybe she didn’t such a bad idea after all). V.B. made it to "about" 90 (she might have been 100 for all anybody knew), and died in a nursing home in 1991. There had been encounters over the years with Banky adorers (one even carried her groceries), but she rebuffed them all. Apparently, no one ever found out what it was like kissing Rudy, at least not from Vilma.

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