Sarga Liliom Ad 1922<br />

“Sarga Liliom.” Uj Előre, December 21, 1921.

The more I learn about my grandfather, Kalman Marki, the more I am fascinated and impressed with his talent, creativity and drive. He arrived at Ellis Island in 1907 with $5 in his pocket, supervising his younger brother, sister, and cousin. Although he was meeting his parents in New York City, the journey was a challenge for a 16-year-old.

Within 7 years of his arrival, he had a career as a “cutter” in the garment industry and eventually became a clothing designer and opened a factory, which my father, Norman Feinberg, managed.

As a child, I knew he had been an actor and director long before I was born. A few years ago, I found remarkable evidence that he began reciting poetry in public as early as 1913.

I recently came across a cache of articles and advertisements in Hungarian-American newspapers from the 1920s and 1930s about him. He had a love of Hungarian poetry and drama. His deep baritone voice soon became well known in the Hungarian “colony,” as it was called, both in New York and New Jersey. I have found dozens of articles praising his emotional, powerful delivery, emanating from his heartfelt connection to his ancestry and culture.

When the actor Bela Lugosi (best known as Dracula) arrived in New York in 1921, he quickly met my grandfather, who was already influential in Hungarian cultural and left-wing political circles. Bela had been a leader of the actors’ union in Hungary under the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic. He was famed for his stage and screen roles in Hungary before he came to the U.S.

After hearing my grandfather recite some of the most famous Hungarian poets, Bela gave Kalman the opportunity to play a small role in a play he was directing. This began my grandfather’s passion for the stage. As Kalman gained more experience, Bela encouraged him to take on more complex and ultimately starring roles and later to experiment with directing. Once Bela’s career took off in the U.S., they did not perform together again. But Bela and his wife Lillian, whom he married in 1933, were close friends of my grandparents, Julia and Kalman.

The full story of their relationship, including their fight against fascism in Hungary during World War II, is told in my upcoming book.

The 1922 advertisement attached here is for the Hungarian play “Sárga Liliom” by Lajos Bíró. Bela Lugosi invited my grandfather to play a role—the first of his acting career.

#belalugosi, #kalmanmarki, #hungariandrama

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