October 8-14, 1918. Calm before the storm

Barkóczi Janka – Torma Galina

From October, 1918 there were fewer Az Est film news. They no longer appeared on a weekly basis, and the subjects failed to reflect the country's growing tension.

Everybody knew the war was going to end soon, but no one had any idea about what was going to happen next.

Early October István Burián, foreign minister of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy visited US president, Woodrow Wilson for peace talks, who refused to negotiate with the Monarchy any longer and only wished to talk to the successor states. István Tisza was the first one to publicly state in Parliament on the 17th of October that „we can no longer hope to win this war”, which the majority already suspected. That set the mood for the last film news before the revolution, which was followed by noisy reports two weeks later.  

Jenő Ivánfi, lifetime member of the National Theater

Jenő Ivánfi, born in 1863 played in Szeged, Sopron, Kolozsvár and abroad. He was a devoted fan of Shakespeare, the French, English and German theater, translated many plays into Hungarian and written some of his own. Ede Paulay, director of the National Theatre took him under his arms at an early age. While Jenő had to borrow money to take the train to his first ever show in Budapest, in 1893 he was signed with a 2400 pengő salary. He became a successful member of the company and was awarded a lifetime membership in 1918. He mostly played Machiavellian characters, and Krúdy remembered him as the luckiest gambler in Budapest. On October 5, he played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and the audience clapped him back 17 times. The festivities started at 18:00, the auditorium was filled with public figures and Ivánfi's dressing room was flooded with flowers and gifts. The theater gave him a golden ring with the number '25' engraved in it to honor the 25 years he worked there. „He was a happy man, because he was always passionate. He could take pleasure in luxury, poverty and victory.” – wrote the magazine, Színházi Élet in 1922 in his necrology.  

60 year old Ottokár Prohászka, bishop of Székesfehérvár

The film news enjoyed reporting on anniversaries, reminiscing about public figures' important career moments and the country's historic events. News on the bishop of Székesfehérvár, Ottokár Prohászka's 60th birthday on October 10 was one of those. The crew probably missed the celebration, as they chose an old, quite odd footage of him to accompany the news, even though he appeared at the opening of a new orphanage named after him near Csobánka that day, which was built by the support of the Military Aid Committee and donations from all around the country. The institution housed plenty of 4 to 18 year old girls who lost their parents to the war. Six months later Prohászka was leading the counter-revolutionary movement in the Republic and became one of the most influential public personalities after the dictatorship of proletariat fell. We also keep footage of his 1927 funeral. There is a kind, spontaneous moment at the end of the segment where the editor shows the camera to the bishop, who did not notice it until then, which makes a woman in the background laugh.  

Dog show at the Industry hall

The Hungarian National Association of Dog Breeders opened their exhibition at 08:00 on Sunday, October 15, 1918 at the City Park Industry Hall. The association was founded in 1898, and a year later they already organized the first ever dog show of the country. They started using the name on July 4, 1916. Secretary and organizer, Károly Lajos Ilosvay who appears on this footage, was a teacher from Budapest and one of the first professionals to write about dog breeding in Hungary. Visitors could meet 140 different breeds, from which hounds were the most popular, especially Fox Terriers - there were 40 terriers at the event altogether. „The audience was mostly interested in luxury breeds. The spoiled lap dogs lying on fine silk pillows had just as many admirers, as the gloomy St. Bernards, hefty Great Danes and grotesque Bulldogs.” – wrote the Budapesti Hírlap's reporter. Traditional Hungarian breeds like Komondor, Kuvasz and Puli were also present, some of them bred by the Budapest Zoo. A 30 member jury was judging the competitors and put blue tags on the finest ones. They also held a race which is banned today: Fox Terriers and Dachshunds race each other to catch a fox in an artificial wooden tunnel, and the one to come out at the end with the prey wins. We do not have footage of that, but we do have a video of a similar event from 10 years later. 

A factory destroyed

On September 10, 1918 midnight a devastating fire hit one of the hangars of the Albertfalva airplane factory. The fire was rapidly spreading due to the unusually windy weather, and the Central Fireguard and firefighters from 3 districts were still trying to put it out the next day. They managed to save the majority of the plant, but 27 ground aircrafts and amphibious aircrafts were destroyed. The reason why Az Est news's intertitles only say "A factory destroyed" was probably because the fire hit a military operation in Albertfalva, the Hungarian Airplane Factory LTD, where they were manufacturing wooden frame military aircrafts. They probably had special safety precautions and all information regarding one of the biggest airplane factories of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was top secret. It would also have been demoralizing if such news became public at the end of the war. The press was also tight-lipped about the incident and the damages were only visible on these images.

Identifying the film report, the subject and the location was not an easy task, but the 100 year anniversary was a good reason to start an exciting investigation. There are no obvious clues on the scarlet painted images, which only show some barrels and a couple of strange wheeled structures. We knew the film was shot in daylight and the firefighters were still working. The accident probably happened a week earlier, so we had to go through all the newspapers to see if any fires were mentioned. Most of them happened at night, were immediately put out and caused minor damages. Fires further away from the city and smaller accidents had to be ruled out, as it was complicated for Az Est crew to get around at that time. Based on the surroundings, we could also rule out the railway station where they found a burning wagon. Finally we ended up with two fires around Budapest. One of them was in an ointment and tar factory in Újpest, Viola utca, where the tar tanks burned down, but the location did not seem to match, as Újpest had taller buildings and they have no hills or spaces we saw on the footage. The article on the other fire does not delve into details, but mentions the exact location, the factory and the hangar where the fire broke out, and the fact that the fire started at night and burned until next day, which means that a film crew could have been shooting there in daytime. Our suspicion was confirmed by studies on the airplane factory and photographs of the distinctive smokestack and the building. By knowing all that, it finally became clear why the news had to be secretive about the location, while they still had to mention it to the locals who probably noticed the giant flames.

The Hungarian Airplane Factory LTD in Albertfalva was founded on November 6, 1912 and became the biggest wooden-structure military airplane factory of the country and the Monarchy. Their name usually appeared in German during the war, as in Ungarische Flugzeug A.G. = UFAG. They officially produced 928 ground reconnaissance aircrafts and 185 navy aircrafts. The prospering factory employed 1700 workers by 1918. On November 8, 1918, "at the beginning of a peaceful era" the Aviation Commission ordered a 75% downsizing and started reducing production. The factory closed in 1926.