August 27 – September 2. Strange Destinies

Barkóczi Janka

Az Est News' second edition is a perfect example on how the genre's rules were changing with time. This week we are looking at an unusual report on politics, two bizarre tabloids and an exciting sports commentary from the 100 year old footages.

The following images demonstrate that editors, who were also often behind the camera, were intentionally looking for drama and were not afraid to report on violent and bizarre events.

 Field Marshal Eichhorn's killer executed

This footage might be short, but it is still hard to watch. It shows the dead body of revolutionary Boris Mikhailovich Donskoy on the gallows, who was hung at the Lukyanivska Prison in Kiev. The execution took place on August 11, 1918, after the court-martial declared the defendant guilty of murdering Field Marshal Hermann Emil Gottfried von Eichhorn. Eichhorn was military governor of Ukraine under German protectorate, and he was stepping outside a Kiev casino with his adjutant, when Donskoy's bomb went off. Murdering the famously ruthless military officer, who was often called the „Crownless King of Ukraine”, was part of the Russian left wing socialist revolutionaries plot, who were protesting against the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, as it had serious effects on Russia. We have no knowledge on how Az Est News acquired this reel, but it was clearly from abroad. The network for purchasing and exchanging news images was established in the mid '20s, when the Office of Hungarian Film started building connections with partner offices around the world. Projecting an image of a corpse only for the chills shows that we are still at the very early stages of filmed news. As censorship gained more ground, less of these disturbing images could appear in the media.  

László Balogh, depressed child actor of the Baby Theatre

The 14 year old child actor's attempted suicide on August 21 was real tabloid news. The troublesome career of a boy, who smiles at us from a movie screen, is just as fascinating as the Modern Baby Theatre itself, which pledged to „entertain the modern child's soul”. The owner was called Zoltán Robicsek, who had a fur business before that gig. They performed for small and not so small children alike, and the company was copying the luxurious life of their adult correspondents. If we take a closer look at the Baby Theatre's cast, we can find some people who later became household names. Rózsi Bársony, who became a star with the German UFA film studio, and Franciska Gaál, a favored actress from the 1930's both had their anecdotes about the Baby Theatre. The shows held at today's Játékszín were pretty successful and Kálmánné Rózsahegyi was baking her croissants for the little prima donnas, but neither the success nor the croissants could save the Baby Theatre from the never ending scandals, and on 1918 summer the police chief shut them down.  

A hyena tore off 6 year old József Lehoczky's arm at the zoo

The 1918 news is about a serious zoo accident, where a spotted hyena tore off a child's arm, but it does not end here. The moment this story turned into one of Aesop's Fables was two decades later, when the victim went back to his attacker to become his best friend and caretaker. The Budapest Zoo was unsuccessful after the war, even though it was rebuilt between 1909 and 1912 as a part of mayor István Bárczy's development project. The war took its toll on the animals and there were no resources for upkeep. The reporter from Pesti Napló talked about missing seals, aching polar bears and some surprisingly satisfied monkeys. This report says a lot about how the media worked at the time. After the news started spreading about the accident, the hyena cage became immensely popular, where people cursed at the animals and were poking at them with sticks. Luckily the crisis was only temporary and the Budapest Zoo became one of the finest in Europe. In 1920 they were selling buffalos, bears, camels and hyenas - of course - to those institutions (for example the Berlin Zoo), where animals vanished or were consumed during war.  

September races at the Hippodrome

This is what the Hunting and Racing Magazine had to write about the relationship between the audience and the Hippodrome in August 1918: „Sports fans of the capital got used to smooth gallop starts, as they were mostly successful on first or second try, so they never had to wait longer than, shall we say 5 or 10 minutes before the race began. Now, it is understandable that the public can not get used to a more problematic and time consuming start, even though it may naturally occur time to time, given we are dealing with horses. People never forget to let you know how dissatisfied and impatient they are.” But based on this news report, which could easily pass as an advertisement for horse racing, there was nothing to worry about. The crowd was huge and they clearly enjoyed the event. The sport was popularized in Hungary by the Eszterházys, Károlyis and other wealthy families in the 1880's, and the first Grand Breeding Competition was held in 1884, later known as the Hungarian Derby. There were no side events between 1909 and 1923, but on August 28, Orpheus won amongst the 3 year olds, Medea took home the Albertfalvai prize and Jasmin got the amateur prize.