Famous Hungarians – Surprising Hungarian Roots: Notable Personalities

Hungary, a nation with a rich history, has been home to Hollywood stars, inventive minds, exceptional athletes, intellectuals, and daring adventurers. Unveiling a list of 15 individuals who’ve left an indelible mark globally, these figures may surprise you with their Hungarian roots.

Known for their innovation and resourcefulness, Hungarians have consistently tackled complex problems with ingenuity. Beyond the stereotypes of vodka and mustaches, Hungary boasts a diverse legacy, with luminaries such as Houdini, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and more hailing from its soil.

Let’s delve into the fascinating stories of the top 10 most famous Hungarians:

Count Almásy/The English Patient

Ralph Fiennes portrayed Count Almásy, a character based on the real-life László Ede Almásy de Zsadány et Törökszentmiklós. Though fictionalized in the Oscar-winning film “The English Patient,” Almásy’s aviation feats and exploration in North Africa during World War II were key inspirations. Forced to flee Hungary after 1947, he earned the Iron Cross for wartime operations and passed away in Austria in 1951.

Adrien Brody

Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody’s Hungarian mother, Sylvia Plachy, is a remarkable figure. Hidden from the Nazis in Budapest as a child, she later gained acclaim as a photographer in America. Brody, born in 1973, incorporates his family’s background into his performances, notably in Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist.

Tony Curtis

Born Bernard Schwartz in New York to Hungarian-Jewish parents, Tony Curtis never forgot his roots. The star of “Some Like It Hot” contributed significantly to the reconstruction of the Great Synagogue in Budapest.

Bela Lugosi

Béla Blaskó, known for his portrayal of Count Dracula, was born to Hungarian and Serbian parents. After working in Budapest, he found success in Hollywood but faced challenges, leading to his association with director Ed Wood.

Joseph Pulitzer – Journalist

Born in Makó, Hungary, Pulitzer immigrated to the U.S. at 17 to join the Civil War. A prominent figure in journalism, he established the Pulitzer Prize in 1911, honoring excellence in journalism, drama, and education.

Harry Houdini – Escape Artist/Magician

Renowned worldwide for his magic and escape acts, Houdini, born Erik Weisz in Budapest, achieved fame in the U.S. The House of Houdini museum in Budapest, curated by fellow magician David Merlini, showcases artifacts from his illustrious career.

Robert Capa – Photographer

A celebrated war photographer born in Budapest, Capa gained fame for his Spanish Civil War photos and iconic D-Day shots. The Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center in Budapest honors his legacy with engaging temporary exhibitions.

Zsa Zsa Gabor – Actress

Crowned Miss Hungary in the 1930s, Gabor moved to the U.S. in 1941, becoming a Hollywood actress known for her grace and flamboyant lifestyle. Despite nine marriages, she remains an enduring figure.

Tommy Ramone – Drummer

Born Tamas Erdelyi in Budapest to a Jewish family, Tommy Ramone, the drummer for the Ramones, is the only Hungarian inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. His influence in punk rock is undeniable.

Monica Seles – Athlete

A tennis legend, Seles, born in Novi Sad near the Hungarian border, achieved remarkable success before an unfortunate stabbing incident halted her career. Her journey from Serbia to America is a tale of resilience.

Tony Curtis – Actor

Born Bernard Schwartz in the U.S. to Hungarian parents, Curtis never forgot his roots. A prolific actor in over 100 films, his contribution to reconstructing the Great Synagogue in Budapest reflects his commitment to heritage.

Ernő Rubik – Rubik’s Cube Inventor/Architect

Renowned for the iconic Rubik’s Cube, Ernő Rubik, an architect and game designer from Budapest, continues to impact the world with his innovative creations, including the famous puzzle.

Calvin Klein – Fashion Designer

Although born in the U.S., Calvin Klein’s Hungarian descent influenced his illustrious career in fashion. His eponymous brand, known for revolutionizing the industry, began with a successful jeans line.

László Bíró – Inventor

Bíró László József, the inventor of the ballpoint pen, born in Budapest, revolutionized writing. Fleeing Hungary during WWII, Biro’s invention, used by the Royal Air Force, became a crucial tool during high-altitude missions.

Lajos Kossuth

Lajos Kossuth, a Hungarian lawyer, journalist, and politician, served as the Regent-President of the Kingdom of Hungary during the 1848–49 revolution. His recognition extended beyond Hungary to the United States, where he was esteemed as a champion of freedom and a symbol of democracy during his lifetime.

Béla Bartók

Béla Bartók, a Hungarian composer, pianist, and folk music researcher, stands as a monumental figure in the 20th century’s musical landscape. Renowned for his significant contributions, he not only composed intricate piano music at the tender age of 9-10 but also embarked on extensive journeys with Zoltán Kodály to collect Central European folk music using a phonograph.

Ferenc Puskás

Ferenc Puskás, the illustrious Hungarian footballer, earned accolades as an Olympic gold medallist and World Cup silver medallist. With a successful career as both a player and coach for various club teams and national squads, he achieved the esteemed title of Sportsman of the Nation. Born in Budapest, Puskás initially carved out his football legacy in Hungary, garnering recognition from FIFA as one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Explore the stories of these remarkable Hungarians who have significantly contributed to shaping the global landscape.