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Who’s that Girl in Assiut? Vilma Banky

One of my favorite hobbies is collecting vintage ephemera. I focus on vintage images of that glorious cloth I’m obsessed with: assiut.  Recently, I landed a beautiful postcard of silent screen star Vilma Banky. Originally from Hungary, she took the name of her birth city, Vilma.  She began making films in Europe but was “discovered” in Austria in 1925.  She moved to the US and became a star in Hollywood.  Her natural beauty, luminous eyes, and a mobile, expressive face made her stand out during the silent picture era.

Vilma’s most famous role was opposite Rodolph Valentino in the film “Son of the Shiek.”  Although many of her 28 feature films have disappeared, you can watch “Son of the Shiek” on places like YouTube. (Right: still from “Son of the Shiek”)

Vilma Banky Postcards 

As a star, Vilma was professionally photographed by her studio for use as publicity stills for movie magazines, posters, and postcards.  During the 1920’s, postcards were sold at movie theaters at kiosks and out of vending machines.  The style of the moment was to shoot actresses in alluring poses with beautiful garments.  Often, you will find multiple photos from the same photo shoot used to create collections of postcards to catch different moods and views to appeal to different viewers.

In this series of postcards, Vilma wears a very fashionable assiut shawl tied as a turban around her head. This glamourous allusion to her fantasy, Orientalist films, without being a costume for a particular role, would lend itself to being used over and over through her film career.

Recently, I was thrilled to pick up another view from the photoshoot with the assiut turban.  (See image below)  The card is in fantastic shape!  Vilma was shot in Austria by photographer Halasz, Budapest/Fanamet-Film and distributed by publisher Iris Verlag who was a major supplier of film star postcards.  Although undated, it’s likely that these postcards were produced before Vilma headed to Hollywood in 1925.

I’m looking forward to including these postcards in my next book on Assiut, “Assiut Belly Dance Costume” which we have begun work on and should be out late 2018 early 2019. Sign up for my newsletter to get updates about this and other projects.

I think it might be time to put on an assiut turban!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Nov. 2, 2017

PS – Check out the blog posts here and here for more of my “Who’s that Girl in Assiut” series.

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