‘The almost perfect Anglo-Saxon type, more English than the English’: Vilma Bánky’s star image in 1920s America

Agata Frymus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The early 1920s witnessed a spike of interest in the import of European stars to Hollywood, as the film studios hired talent scouts to keep a constant watch on successful stage and film actors on the continent. Vilma Bánky’s Hollywood career began when she was signed to Samuel Goldwyn’s film studio in 1925. This paper analyses the characteristics of Bánky’s star image, particularly in relation to her conspicuously white features and the story of her discovery, which successfully located her within the Cinderella narrative. To the movie going public, Bánky achieved stardom through being discovered by a film producer rather than through conscious efforts, thus, her story was encoded as a patriarchal text that denied her any form of agency. Bánky’s star publicity suggested she incarnated the highest ideals of whiteness; her gentle way of being and feminine charm was a natural extension of her physical attributes. Fan magazines propagated the concept of perfect white womanhood by emphasising tranquillity, elegance and grace as characteristics inherent to her persona. ‘Miss Banky’s charm is a subtle, winsome appeal which one associates inevitably with the truly feminine’, declared one columnist writing for Picture Play. The fan discourse also showed Bánky as an eager subject of Americanisation, as an actress who owed her ‘lucky break’ not only to her producer, but an individual in debt to transformative power of America at large.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-441
Number of pages17
JournalEarly Popular Visual Culture
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • 1920s
  • ethnicity
  • fan magazine
  • Hollywood
  • Star studies
  • studio system

Cite this