Lili Darvas

(on actors, writers, and artists, with not much on language)

… and Billy Mumy and Ferenc Molnár and Edith Barakovich. It starts with some tv I watched yesterday: “Long Distance Call”, episode 58 of the American tv series The Twilight Zone (originally aired on 3/31/61), notably featuring Lili Darvas and Billy Mumy:


The set-up, from Wikipedia:

A boy named Billy communicates with his father’s mother using a toy telephone that she gave him on his birthday before she died. His parents become concerned when Billy spends all his time having “pretend” phone conversations with his deceased grandmother. He says that she tells him she is lonely and misses him.

The boy (7 when the show was aired), from Wikipedia:

Charles William “Bill” Mumy, Jr. (… born February 1, 1954), is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice actor, and a figure in the science-fiction community. He came to prominence in the 1960s as a child actor, when he was credited as Billy Mumy. His most notable role was in the [1965-68] CBS sci-fi television series Lost in Space, where he played Will Robinson, the youngest of three children in the Robinson family.

The actor playing the grandmother was, by the time of the show, very well known in both Europe and the US. She has Wikipedia pages in both German and Hungarian, but not English; from her IMDb mini-bio by “I.S. Mowis”, somewhat edited:

Lili Darvas (pronounced ‘Darvash’) (born 4/10/02 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary), died 7/23/74 in NYC) was a major star first in Budapest, then on the German stage with Max Reinhardt’s theatre company during the 1920’s, touring Europe with plays by Goethe, Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Shaw. She received her education at the Budapest Lyceum and made her acting debut at the age of 20 as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. In 1926, she married the playwright Ferenc Molnár, who wrote several plays for her, including Olympia and Delilah. The following year, she made her Broadway debut as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Darvas, who was of Jewish background, fled Europe after the Austrian Anschluss in 1938, using her Hungarian passport to escape to Switzerland. Later, on the advice of actor Walter Slezak, she hired a tutor to perfect her English language skills. Though she became known for her fine acting range, she never lost her European accent, which limited her to playing women of continental background. In 1944, she became an American citizen and, over the next three decades, had many successes on the New York stage, including a starring role in Waltz of the Toreadors (1958) and as Sigmund Freud’s domineering mother Amalie in The Far Country (1961). She was nominated for a Tony Award in one of her last roles as Best Supporting or Featured Actress in Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs [1970].

On screen, she appeared in the big budget MGM musical Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956). Following her husband’s death in 1952, Lili acted increasingly in radio and early television drama. She is fondly remembered as Billy Mumy’s grandmother in The Twilight Zone … episode “Long Distance Call”.

Here she is as a young woman, in a gauzy voluptuous photograph by Edith Barakovich (more on her below):


On to her husband. From Wikipedia:

Ferenc Molnár (birthname Ferenc Neumann; 12 January 1878 – 1 April 1952) was a Hungarian-born dramatist and novelist who adopted American citizenship. Molnár was born in Budapest. He emigrated to the United States to escape persecution of Hungarian Jews during World War II.

As a novelist, Molnár may best be remembered for The Paul Street Boys, the [enormously popular] story of two rival gangs of youths in Budapest. … His most popular plays are Liliom (1909, tr. 1921), later adapted into a musical (Carousel); The Guardsman (1910, tr. 1924), which served as the basis of the film of the same name, which starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne (1931); and The Swan (1920, tr. 1922). His 1918 film, The Devil, was adapted three years later for American audiences, starring George Arliss in his first nationally released film. The 1956 film version of The Swan (which had been filmed twice before) was Grace Kelly’s penultimate film …

Two of Molnár’s plays have been adapted for other media: The Good Fairy was adapted by Preston Sturges and filmed in 1935 with Margaret Sullavan, and subsequently turned into the 1947 Deanna Durbin vehicle, I’ll Be Yours. (It also served as the basis for the 1951 Broadway musical Make a Wish, with book by Sturges.) The film version of the operetta The Chocolate Soldier used the plot of Molnár’s The Guardsman rather than the plot of its original stage version, which was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man

Now to the photographer of #1. From an auction-house catalogue:

Edith Barakovich was one of the most famous Viennese photographers of the interwar period; photographs by Edith Barakovich fetch up to €1,200 at international auctions

In the 1920/30s, Vienna was a famous venue for an assorted group of female photographers, that gradually stirred up the long-established scene of professional studio photographers, dominated by men. Edith Barakovich … specialized in portraying the upper middle class. She took pictures of actors and actresses, just as of fashion and dance protagonists. The present portrait reveals a young actress wearing an elaborate costume of pearls and bears the title ‘Funny Kozary’:


Especially fine with women as subjects.

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