September 24-30, 2018. A disappointing match on Üllői út

Barkóczi Janka

The week's most interesting report was about the opening of Gellért Bath, but we also get to witness the unveiling of a memorial, meet a member of the royal family and two popular actors.

In 1918 mid-September the Entente started the Big Offensive, Bulgaria asked for peace on the 25th and signed the armistice a couple days later. The Balkan front collapsed and the Entente's forces rapidly started pushing towards the river Sava on the Hungarian border. However, the news kept rather peaceful memories about this era.

Gellért Bath opening

Undoubtedly one of the "most beautiful and monstrous" project of the time, the construction of Gellért Spa and Bath, which opened it's doors exactly a hundred years ago on September 26, 1918. The spring underneath was discovered in the Ottoman era and was used for healing purposes. For a long time it was called Sárosfürdő for it's muddiness and became a property of the city in the 1800s. From the 20th century the city was planning to transform Budapest into a "city of baths", and an all inclusive spa-hotel with a hospital unit was an essential part of that image. Construction started in 1911 by Artúr Sebestyén, Ármin Hegedűs and Izidor Sterk's plans, and continued expeditiously through the war with local contractors, so Budapest could welcome a gorgeous and impressive modern bath in 1918 autumn. Some were unhappy about the location, arguing that such an institution should be located on the hills instead of a busy and noisy Gellért square, but the stylish interior, fine tiles, wonderful panoramic views and heavenly peach trees in the garden enchanted everyone. There were some elements missing at that point, which later became trademarks of the institution; the wave pool opened in 1927, the artificial turf golf course in 1931 and the hot tub in 1934. They had to transform the mini golf and winter garden for the hot tub, which still has the original roof structure - so the woman we see on this film gardening would be standing in a pool today.  

Princess Isabella visits the soup-kitchen of Budapest

Princess Isabella was called the "guardian angel" of military kitchens for a reason. On her Budapest trip she mostly visited Hungarian community centers. On September 27, 1918 she went to see the soup-kitchen at a Váci út elementary school, which would be located at Károlyi Mihály Bilingual School of Economics' gym today. It was founded and mainly financed by Manfréd Weiss, but the city, the ministry of interior affairs, the Jewish community and the a chevra-kadisha also chipped in. Weiss later handed over the institution to his son in law, Ödön Mautner, founder of the local seed trade. Being charitable was a moral duty for the upper class, which indeed meant a lot for the district at that time, as all unemployed and poor families could dine here. They used to hand out 1000 free meals per day, bake their own bread in the camp's oven, and cook in 12 large pots in the kitchen. Princess Isabella also visited the Manfréd Weiss factory's Csepel plant and the factory workers' childhood center and diner, but Az Est News did not follow her there.  

Military monument unveiling in Nyitra

Sándor Finta (1881-1958) sculptor from Túrkeve, oldest one of the three Finta brothers, was chosen to design a memorial in Nyitra for fallen war heroes. The sculpture, which stood in the city park under the castle from September 29, portrays Jesus holding a dead soldier in his arms. It was one of the first memorials of the country paying respect to war heroes. The artist only engraved the beginning date of the war on the pedestal, as the Great War was still on at that time. The ceremony started with the National Anthem, then the count and the town clerk gave a speech and Mayor Tibor Thuróczy placed a large wreath on the pedestal. To close the event, colonel Károly Deisler, battalion commander of the 14th infantry regiment made a thank you speech. The statue had an interesting life later on. After Trianon, when Upper Hungary was no longer part of the country, the original engraving was replaced by Slovakian words to commemorate the war heroes. Sándor Finta made several other memorials around the country; he had sculptures on the main squares of Hatvan, Pöstyén, Novi Sad and Szeged. At one point he moved to Brazil, then ended up in the United States and briefly worked for 20th Century Fox. Success followed him everywhere, even the Metropolitan Museum bought one of his sculptures. His works were mostly inspired by charismatic Hungarian figures and important historical events, and to commemorate the commemorator, Túrkeve has its own Finta Museum today, where they keep the brothers' legacy alive.  

Tivadar Uray, new member of Magyar Theatre

Tivadar Uray (1895-1962), an Artúr Bárdos discoveree started his career in 1916 at the Belvárosi Theatre, and next season Ferenc Herczeg brought him to the National Theatre. Which ended up to be a short stop, as the year after that he left the country's number one theater for the less prestigious but significantly wealthier Magyar Theatre. It was a completely financial decision. Uray could not pay his debts, asked for a raise from the director, arguing that Gizi Bajor and Artúr Somlay work with higher than average wages, but he could not bargain a better salary for himself than what was written in his original agreement. The incident obviously baffled everyone, as 100 years later it is still quite strange that such an event could make the news.  His absence from the National Theatre came to an end when he returned in 1923, and spent the next 25 years of his career there. Beside the theatre stage he also appeared in movies, although only as a character actor mainly portraying Machiavellian figures. Unfortunately, only one of his 11 silent films survived, but his other movies can be found at the Film Archive.  

Ignác Krecsányi's farewell show

The 74 year old Ignác Krecsányi (1844-1923) bid farewell to his fans on September 30 at the Budai Színkör after a 25 year career. At his last ever show he reminisced about the early years of the shingle roofed, cobwebbed Budai Színkör, where shows were often interrupted by bats flying around the beams. Színkör was a summer theater, an important cultural hub of Krisztinaváros until the 1930's, when it was labeled unsafe and was torn down. Under Krecsányi, they staged works by Ede Szigligeti, József Szigeti, Edmond Rostand, Maxim Gorky, Schiller and Shakespeare. He had a good eye for talent, and several generations of actors grew up under his wings. He was the one to discover Vilma Medgyaszay, Imre Pethes and opera singer Béla Környei, and he had extraordinary work ethic; legend says he made his actors rehearse even while on the road. Some of the shows often played 50 times, which also proves how popular the company was. In 1914 Mari Jászai was a guest actress, playing in Mary Stuart, Electra, Medea and The Exile - the latter also had a silent film version that year. One of Krecsányi's biggest discovery was Lajos S. Rózsa opera singer, who remembered him gratefully on the Metropolitan Opera's stage. His name might have become forgotten, but as luck would have it, there are numerous gramophone records preserving his singing, while many talents never even had the chance to have their voices or images recorded. Géza Sebestyén was the one to follow Krecsányi as the Budai Színkör's director, who also built his theatre on fantastic actors. Hanna Honthy had her first success here, and she even played in the last show by the company, Csárdás, before the theatre finally closed its doors in 1937.        

FTC vs. MTK football game

„General disappointment. The game between the best Hungarian teams was almost unwatchable, not to mention that it all happened a week before the Hungarian-Austrian game.” – wrote the Az Újság's depressed reporter on September 29, 1918. The FTC-MTK game ended with a 2:2 tie on the Üllői út field, leaving 16,000 fans disappointed, and if that was not enough, the majority of the audience had to walk to the game, as the trams were out of service. But the game was already doomed as MTK's talented and popular goalkeeper, Miksa Knapp passed away on match-day after battling with Spanish flu, another player was injured and a third one had food poisoning. Player of FTC and member of the National Team, István Potya Tóth poses for the cameras at the end of the report. He had an enviable career not only as a footballer but also as a coach, introducing new methods such as warm-up and the Exercise Diary. Unfortunately, he also suffered some tragedies; during World War II he joined the national resistance, hid those in need and saved lives until the Gestapo arrested him in December, 1944. He spent months in prison and in February, 1945 the Arrow Cross Party executed him. This game might have been a lousy one, but the public's ever growing love for sports clearly comes through these images. A persistently rolling camera operator was evidently trying to popularize football, which was not a common sport back then. If the game was uneventful, he recorded the audience, and his footage of enthusiastic fans - some of them soldiers in uniforms - might be the most beautiful early motion picture we have of sporting events.