Michel Gyarmathy (1908-1996)
Michel Gyarmathy was born as Miklós Ehrenfeld, on 23. January 1908, in Balassagyarmat. He died on 30. October 1996. in Paris.
Director, set and costume designer. His father, Saul Ehrenfeld was an owner of a dairy factory in Balassagyarmat. His mother was Mária Brack. He graduated in the local Balassi Grammar School, then he moved to Budapest. He attended the College of Applied Arts and studied cheramics, later graphics and scenography. First milestone on his career was Király Theater, then he worked in the Budapest Operetta Theater, Buda Theatre Company and in the City Theater. Especially he was interested in directing musical entertaintment theatres, genres and scenography projects. For example, his name was associated with preparing the design and scenery of "Maya", an operetta of Szabolcs Fényes.
At this time, by the suggestion of Hanna Honthy, the famoust hungarian primadonna of the age, he changed his name to Miklós E. Gyarmathy (and later to Michel Gyarmathy) after his hometown ("you won't be able to succeed with such a name").
In 1933 he settled in Paris, where he became scene and costume designer, art director, manager of and designer of one of oldest and most famous revue theater of Paris, the Folies Bergere. His name is associated with the Golden Age of the theatre. The biggest name was Josephine Baker, who was invited from New York by Paul Derval, manager of the theatre in 1936.
Beside revue shows, there were performances of such stars as Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Trenet, Fernandel. The last performance of Jean Gabin was also on this stage.
His scenographic art is characterized by the excellent drawing skills, rich use of color, tasteful decorativity
He also directed the Paris-Folies revue shows in Las Vegas from 1961.
He legendarily insisted to his Hungarian roots, to his hometown and he gave many signs to this, most spectacularly, on the stage. He inserted a hungarian part to the end of his shows for long years: a real hungarian wedding which scenes was played in the Matthias Church of Buda, and in Balassagyarmat. You could see the name of the city and "Welcome!" on a decorated banner, and in the end the singers performed the Anthem of Hungary in hungarian. He published an own book with his poems in Paris in 1970. Its title was "Smiles and Tears", in which he remembers to his childhood.
He visits Balassagyarmat for the first time after his leaving in 1984. He wrote these lines about it: "The most moving for me was the moment, when I got off the train in Balassagyarmat, and saw the name of the city written. I haven't been there for fifty one years. I almost cried. I was silly that I hesitated coming back for such a long time. There were a lot of people on the streets waiting for me, windows were opened and they greeted me from there. I will never forget that day."
He is greeted ceremonially in the city, he visits his old grammar school as well, but he did't receive any official honor. According to the memory of the contemporaries, his award has failed because his art was found to be "too light" (not to mention the original vulgar expression). Though he did't received in his hometown, he was given a state award for transferring culture.
He died in Paris in 1996. According his will, he was placed to the final rest next to his father, Saul Ehrenfeld on 14. November, 1996.
We remembered the centenary of his birth on 14. October 2008 on an event which was organized by the Localpatriot Circle of Balassagyarmat