Both Russians and Americans loved and adored her. She was invited to Germany but hesitated, then to Hollywood, but she did not go. And when she did, it was already too late. She always listened to her instincts and inner voice, which unfortunately abandoned her all the time. In Hungary, she became the most shining star of the theatre, Germany and Russia welcomed a new movie star in her, and Hollywood also welcomed her with open arms, but a tragic step ruined her career.
Franciska Gaál (Franciska Gaál [Franci Gaál], originally Szidónia Silberspitz) was born in Budapest on February 1, 1903, to a Jewish family with many children. Her father owned a small restaurant, and they lived together in the Hungarian capital. She had a strict upbringing and decided at a very young age to become a famous actress. At school, she was a bad student and did not pay attention during classes. Instead, she constantly recited poems and told stories to her classmates and teachers. As soon as she could grab the opportunity, she left her school and started to learn to become an actress in Budapest.
She immediately received the first criticism from her teacher Gyula Gál who told her that with the name Silberspitz she would not become an actress but an object of bullying and jokes. Then she told him that she already picked out a stage name for herself. “Would Franciska Gál be an appropriate name?”
Her teacher sensed her cockiness but agreed on one condition: to put another ‘a’ in her name. That is how her stage name Franciska Gaál was born. Although she was incredibly talented, she did not spend much time at acting school. Gaál suffered from constant insomnia, which made her late every single day from school. She was rude and restless, always begging to get a stage role in one of Budapest’s theatres. One time, she even broke into an editorial room and begged the newspaper editors to find her an available role. She was depressed and constantly thinking about suicide. Soon, she was expelled from school.
In the end, she debuted in silent movies first and not on stage. According to memories and database, her first role was in the movie The Adventure of Bostonville in 1920. Another noted Hungarian silent movie starring Gaál is The Mouse from 1921. Unfortunately, many of her movies have been lost to the decades and storms of history. Finally, in 1922, after successful movies, she got her first role on stage as well.
In 1928, her first bad decision appeared in her life. She was the brightest and most celebrated stage actress in Hungary. In the same year, a famous German director heard about Gaál and invited her to Germany to shoot a movie.
The stubborn actress who did not want to leave Hungary because of her incredible fame and glorious life said no. The German movie was later shot by another actress and became an international success. Later, she got invited to Hollywood to make an international career. Gaál, who was still the biggest star in Hungary, said no again. Her colleague Pál Lukács, on the other hand, grabbed the opportunity and travelled to the States. He won an Academy Award in 1944.
Surprisingly, she received another invitation from the Soviet Union where three of her movies were played in cinemas. Since the movies of celebrated actresses of the ’20s and ’30s, like Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, were unknown in Hungary and Eastern Europe, Gaál was the sex symbol. Rumours said that after Hitler, even Stalin stated Gaál as their favourite actress.
In 1937, when the political situation of Hungary started to get worse, Gaál travelled to America and eventually began her career in Hollywood. Although she shot several American movies and the audience loved her, they were not successful box office hits. Disobeying her contract to more movies, she suddenly travelled back to Hungary. By the time she arrived, she was not warmly welcomed by her colleagues, who did not sympathise with Gaál because of her unbearable personality. She continued to make Hungarian movies and played in theatres, but after World War II ended, she wanted to go back to Hollywood. Ten years later, she returned to the United States, but she was already forgotten and got rejected by studios. She did not return to Hungary anymore and lived alone. During the revolution and uprising of 1956, rumours spread across the world that she died. But she did not until August 23, 1972.
She died in poverty and was forgotten by her nation and the movie industry. She was buried somewhere in the States, but nobody took care of her gravesite, which was later demolished. Nobody knows where her remains are. Franciska Gaál, who was a celebrated actress in Hungary, Germany, and Russia, is still unknown for her own home country. Only her movies could bring her back if they still existed…
The story of America’s favourite silent movie actress
Vilma Bánky (born as Vilma Koncsics) was born in Hungary, Budapest on January 9, 1901, in a simple Hungarian family in Nagydorog (Tolna County). The family moved to the Hungarian capital where Koncsics finished her studies and started to work as a stenographer in the field of commerce. Although she had excellent skills and knowledge for her job, Koncsics’s real dream was to become a famous actress.
READ MORE HERE
Source: www.fidelio.hu, Wikipedia