The film industry in Hollywood is rife with family dynasties, from the Douglas family to the Coppolas. Due to the out-sized proportion of Hungarians who have shaped and worked in Hollywood, it only makes sense that entertainment will run in the blood of a few Hungarian families. You could look to the Curtis family, with legend Tony Curtis and his perennial scream-queen daughter Jamie Lee Curtis. And then there are the Hargitay’s: Mickey and Mariska, both accomplished Hungarian/American actors.
Mickey Hargitay, like so many Hungarian emigres to the US, was born in the early 20th century, in 1926 Budapest. Originally named Miklós, at a young age he joined his family in their troupe of acrobats, touring the country to perform in front of large audiences. Later in his youth he took up figure skating. Then, when trouble struck in the form of World War Two, he took up arms as part of a resistance movement, before fleeing for the United States at the age of twenty-one.
Like many Hungarians, he settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked as a plumber while re-starting his career as an acrobat with his his new American wife. But inspired by the film Hercules, he decided to take up body-building, and then went on to hone his craft and win Mr. Universe contest in 1955.
After leaving his wife for mega-star Jane Mansfield, Hargitay caught the interest of film producers. Fittingly, one of his more famous roles was that of Hercules. Though he never rose to the iconic level of Mansfield, he had a long career as an actor, most recently working on the TV series Law and Order.
Though Hargitay died in 2006, his mantle is carried on by his daughter Mariska. Born in 1964 from his marriage with Mansfield (there’s a pedigree) Mariska Hargitay got her start in acting in a small role in the classic comedy Ghoulies. Since then, her career has followed a varied path, with roles in such dissimilar projects as Leaving Las Vegas, the soap Falcon Crest, and Baywatch. But she is best known for her long-running role on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
There is a strong vein of Hungarian pride in the family, with her brothers bearing the Hungarian names Zoltán and Miklós. The children were brought up to speak Hungarian, which the Mariska capably demonstrates in the below video.
And, of course, when Hargitay won her Emmy in 2006, she thanked her father, fellow Hungarian Mickey.
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