The Peak of Vilma

Did you notice the name Vilma on the movie poster in yesterday’s Rudolph Valentino post?

Silent film star Vilma Banky was born in Hungary circa 1901 and started appearing in American movies after she immigrated in 1925.

She was Valentino’s co-star in his last two pictures: The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). A year later, in 1927, she married fellow actor Rod La Rocque. Her highly publicized wedding, produced by Samuel Goldwyn himself, “was the most elaborate of the silent-film era.”

She was at the height of her fame at that time, and, correspondingly, usage of the bay name “Vilma” doubled in 1926 and peaked in 1927:

  • 1930: 147 baby girls named Vilma [rank: 563rd]
  • 1929: 198 baby girls named Vilma [rank: 481st]
  • 1928: 177 baby girls named Vilma [rank: 523rd]
  • 1927: 213 baby girls named Vilma [rank: 478th]
  • 1926: 117 baby girls named Vilma [rank: 673rd]
  • 1925: 54 baby girls named Vilma
  • 1924: 33 baby girls named Vilma

Her film career ended not long after this, though, because she — along with her heavy Hungarian accent — were unable to make the transition to talkies.

The female name Vilma (just like the male name William) can be traced back to the Germanic name Willahelm, made up of the elements wil, meaning “will, desire,” and helm, meaning “helmet, protection.”

Sources: Vilma – Behind the Name, Vilma Banky, Hollywood Star With Short but Influential Career – New York Times, Vilma Banky – Wikipedia

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