14 December 2011

Anna Tõkés

Actress Anna Tõkés (1898 - 1966) was a leading star of the Hungarian stage. Her 41-year association with the famed National Theatre of Budapest was one of the longest in that company's history. She was particularly noted for her performances in the modern repertory. During the 1930's and the 1950's she also appeared in popular Hungarian films, which were also shown abroad.

Anna Tõkés
Hungarian postcard. Publisher: Globus, Budapest. Photo: Angelo Photos. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Strained Relation
Anna Tõkés was born in Marosvásárhely, Austria-Hungary (now Targu Mures, Romania) in 1898 (according to Robert Edwards at FAG; IMDb indicates it was 1903). She made her acting debut in 1922. A year later she was contracted by the Renaissance Színház (Renaissance Theater) in Budapest. Soon followed engagements at the Vígszínházhoz (Comedy Theater) and the Nemzeti Színház (National Theater) in 1925. There she was seen as a possible threat to Gizi Bajor, the company's top diva, and relations between the two were often strained. In 1928 Tõkés went to the United States with the company of Oscar Beregi to try for a career in Hollywood films, but her visit coincided with the arrival of the sound film and she returned to her country. She made her film debut in the silent film Füst/Smoke (1929). By the early 1930’s, Tõkés had emerged as a stage star in her own right, and she remained with the National Theater until her death. During the 1930’s, she also appeared in several Hungarian films, of which some were released abroad: Café Moszkva/Cafe Moscow (1936, Istvan Szekely, who later had a Hollywood career as Steve Sekely), Hotel Kikelet/Hotel Sunrise (1937, Béla Gaál), and Az ember néha téved/Man Sometime Errs (1938, Béla Gaál). About the latter, Leslie Howard Adams at IMDb notes: “Released in the US in 1938 but had no English titles. Three different trade reviewers praised the direction by Béla Gaál and the handling of the principal role by Miss Tokes.”

Political Tensions
The war interrupted Anna Tõkés’ film career, but she continued to shine on stage. She received the prestigious Kossuth Award in 1952. After more than ten years she returned to the cinema in a small role in A harag napja/Day of Wrath (1953, Zoltán Várkonyi, Károly Makk). That year she also appeared in the musical Állami áruház/State Department Store (1953, Viktor Gertler) with Miklós Gábor. The following years she appeared in such internationally renowned films as A Tettes Ismeretlen/Danse Macabre (1958, László Ranódy, László Nádasy) with Margit Bara, and Sóbálvány/Pillar of Salt (1958, Zoltán Várkonyi). Hal Erickson writes at Rovi about the latter: “There is nothing Biblical about the story, however, which revolves around a dedicated young doctor. The trouble is that the doctor is ‘too’ dedicated, and thus blind to the sociopolitical upheavals all around him. Only when it is nearly too late does our hero come to realize that he must take a stand in ‘this’ world, and not bury himself exclusively in the world of medicine. Though a popular entry in the 1958 Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Sóbálvány wasn't a likely candidate for US showings, in the light of recent political tensions between America and the Communist Hungarian government”. Her final film was Fagyosszentek/The ice saints (1962, György Révész). Anna Tõkés passed away in 1966 in Budapest, Hungary.

Sources: Hal Erickson (Rovi), Robert Edwards (Find A Grave), Wikipedia (Hungarian) and IMDb.

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