Vilma Bánky (1901 – 1991) was a Hungarian-born American silent film actress, although the early part of her acting career began in Budapest.
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.
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”.
She appeared opposite silent great Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). Valentino reportedly was fascinated by Vilma, and he 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 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 years.