Vilma Bánky was a Hungarian-born American silent film actress. Banky was best known for her roles in “The Eagle” (1925) and “The Son of the Sheik” (1926) with Rudolph Valentino and several romantic teamings with Ronald Colman.
Vilma Banky was born Vilma Koncsics on January 9, 1901 in Nagydorog, Austria-Hungary. Her father was a bureau chief under Franz Joseph’s Austro-Hungarian Empire. Shortly after her birth, her father was transferred to Budapest, and the family relocated. She had two siblings, an older brother, Gyula 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. Her first film appearance was in the now lost film, “Im Letzten Augenblick”, 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 played by Ronald Colman). In the mid and late 1920s she became Goldwyn’s biggest money maker, especially playing with Ronald Colman in movies such as “The Dark Angel” (1925), “The Winning Of Barbara Worth” (1926), “The Night Of Love” (1927), “The Magic Flame” (1927), and “Two Lovers” (1928). Her best-known works were with Rudolph Valentino “The Eagle” (1925) and as an Arab dancer in “The Son of the Sheik” (1926). Her first talking movie was “This Is Heaven” (1929). Her last movie was in 1933 ,”The Rebel”.
She married actor Rod La Rocque in 1927 and they remained married until his death in 1969. They had no children
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.
Vilma Bánky died on March 18, 1991, in Los Angeles, California, from cardiopulmonary failure, aged 90. Notice of her death was not made public until the following year. Her ashes were scattered at sea where her husband’s had been.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Vilma Bánky has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.