Kristóf Deák’s short film Sing won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film on Sunday, and a year ago, László Nemes’s Son of Saul took the award for Best Foreign Language Film, but they are far from being the first Hungarians to win this most prestigious of film awards. To celebrate, szeretlekmagyarorszag.hu has collected the most important Oscar winners of Hungarian origin throughout history.
William S. Darling
William S. Darling was born in 1882 in Sándorháza in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Sandra in today’s Romania). He moved to the USA in 1910. As a production designer, he was nominated by the Academy seven times and won the award three times. His 1934 win for the film Cavalcade made him the first Hungarian to win an Oscar. Later, his work on the films The Song of Bernadette (1944) and Anne and the King of Siam (1947) was also awarded.
Other production designers of Hungarian origin include Alexandre Trauner, who won for the film The Apartment (1960), and Joseph Kish, whose work on the film Ship of Fools (1965) was also awarded.
Géza Herczeg was born in Budapest in 1888. He was a correspondent during the First World War, then later worked in Hollywood. In 1937, he was the first Hungarian to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay for the film The Life of Emile Zola.
Other screenwriters of Hungarian origin include John S. Toldy, born János Székely, who won the awawd for the film Arise, My Love (1941), and Hungarian-British screenwriter Emeric Pressburger who won for the movie 49th Parallel.
The youngest of the Korda brothers initially wanted to be a painter, but later followed the family tradition and joined the film industry as an art director. His brothers were Alexander Korda, a leading figure in British filmmaking, and Zoltán Korda, director and producer. Vince Korda was nominated for 4 Oscars, and won the award for The Thief of Bagdad (1941).
Born as Mihály Kertész, Michael Curtiz was one of the most celebrated directors of the silent film era. He was an incredibly prolific director, working on 45 films in 1918 alone, and directing 166 films throughout his career. He was born in 1888 in Budapest, and he emigrated to the US in 1926 after working in Hungary both as an actor and a director.
In 1939, he received two Academy Award nominations for Four Daughters and Angels with Dirty Faces, and he took the award in 1944 for the famous Casablanca. The film is considered one of the best films of all time, and Curtiz became the first director of Hungarian origin to win an Oscar.
Pál Lukács is the first and, so far, the only Hungarian actor who was awarded by the Academy. He was a popular stage and film actor in the 1910s and 1920s in Budapest. In 1927, he moved to Hollywood at Adoph Zukor’s invitation. He won the Oscar for the 1943 movie Watch on the Rhine.
Composer Miklós Rózsa was awarded the Oscar three times, but received altogether 10 nominations between 1941 and 1962. He won his first award in 1945 for Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, and he was also awarded for A Double Life (1947) and Ben-Hur (1959).
Vilmos Zsigmond, who passed away last year, was one of the most influential cinematographers in film history. He studied in Budapest, and together with his friend and fellow student, László Kovács, he chronicled the events of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. After the revolution, he emigrated to the US, and became one of the prominent cinematographers in Hollywood.
He received the Oscar for Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1978, and he was also nominated for The Deer Hunter (1978), and The River (1985).
Ferenc Rófusz won the first Oscar, that was awarded to a Hungarian production. His film The Fly received the Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film in 1981.
The first Hungarian feature film which was awarded by the Academy was István Szabó’s 1981 film Mephisto. Three other films by Szabó have also been nominated: Confidence, Colonel Redl, and Hanussen.
It took 34 years for a Hungarian film to repeat the success of Mephisto, but finally in 2016, László Nemes’s (alternative) Holocaust film Son of Saul won the Academy Award, as well as many other prestigious international film awards including the BAFTA, the Golden Globe, and the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.
+1. Kristóf Deák
The latest Hungarian Oscar winner is Kristóf Deák, who received the award for Best Live Action Short Film with his film Sing. Congratulations to Kristóf Deák for being part of this incredible line-up of Hungarian filmmakers.
Cover photo: facebook.com/NemesJelesLaszlo