Vilma BankySilent film starLOS ANGELES -- Hungarian-born...


December 15, 1992

LOS ANGELES — Vilma Banky

Silent film star

LOS ANGELES -- Hungarian-born Vilma Banky reigned as a top film star of the 1920s, playing opposite Rudolph Valentino and Ronald Colman until the advent of talkies ended her career.

Falling ill in her 80s, she became embittered that none of her friends visited her, and she decreed that no notice be made of her death.

Only now has a spokesman revealed the actress died in a Los Angeles nursing home on March 18, 1991, at the age of about 90.

Word of Miss Banky's death began appearing in publications this fall. Yet her passing went largely unnoticed until last week, when her attorney confirmed the death after an Associated Press inquiry.

Miss Banky was ill at home for five years and for another five years at the St. John of God Convalescent Hospital, attorney Robert Vossler said Thursday.

"During all that time, not a single soul came to visit her," he said. "She was so upset that she wanted no notice and no service when she died. I followed her wishes."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library, one of Hollywood's top biographical sources, was under the impression Miss Banky was living in the fashionable Hancock Park section of the city.

Mr. Vossler said Miss Banky's ashes were scattered at sea near where her husband's ashes had been sown. Miss Banky was married to actor Rod La Rocque for 42 years. Their 1927 wedding, produced by her boss, Samuel Goldwyn, was the most elaborate of the silent era.

Unlike other silent-era stars who died in destitution, Miss Banky and Mr. La Rocque endowed an education foundation for children, now worth more than $1 million.

A beauty known as "the Hungarian Rhapsody," she appeared in Hungarian, Austrian and French films in the early 1920s before Mr. Goldwyn discovered her in 1925. With an eye toward what fan magazines would like, Mr. Goldwyn said the only English she knew was "lamb chops and pineapple." He cast Miss Banky opposite Mr. Colman in "The Dark Angel," a smash hit.

She made three more films with him, including "The Winning of Barbara Worth," which featured young Gary Cooper in a major role. She went on to star opposite Valentino in "The Eagle" and "The Son of the Sheik," the idol's last movies before his death in 1926.

When talkies took over in 1929, Miss Banky appeared in "This Is Heaven," cast as a Hungarian immigrant who works as a pancake-flipping cook. But audiences had trouble understanding her accent, and the movie flopped.

After the 1932 "The Rebel" in Germany, she retired. Her husband's career dwindled in the 1930s, and the couple remained in their Beverly Hills house until his death in 1969.

Former Gov. Ellis Arnall, 85, who brought sweeping changes to Georgia's colleges and abolished prison chain gangs during four years in office in the 1940s, died Sunday after a stroke. As state attorney general, Mr. Arnall opposed Gov. Eugene Talmadge's attempt to purge state universities of integration advocates and used the issue to help oust Mr. Talmadge in a landslide victory in 1942. Mr. Arnall, who was 35 at the time, was dubbed "the boy governor."

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