Obituary: Eva Bartok

ALTHOUGH PUBLICISED in the Fifties as Britain's answer to Sophia Loren, the actress Eva Bartok became better known for her tempestuous private life than for her appearances in a string of generally mediocre films. By the time she was 30, she had been married and divorced four times, one of her husbands being actor Curt Jurgens, while her lovers included the Marquess of Milford Haven and Frank Sinatra. Her most notable films are two cult movies, the pastiche swashbuckler The Crimson Pirate, in which she starred opposite Burt Lancaster, and Mario Bava's horror film Blood and Black Lace.

Born Eva Martha Szoke in Keoskemet, Hungary, in 1926, she married her first husband, Giza Kovas, a Nazi, while only 15 years old and after imprisonment in a concentration camp. The marriage was later annulled on the grounds of coercion of a minor.

A strikingly beautiful brunette, she found work on the Budapest stage after the Second World War, and made her film debut in a Hungarian film, Mezet Profeta (released in the United States as Prophet of the Field), in 1947. When she wrote to an old friend, the film producer Alexander Paal, begging him to help her escape from Soviet-dominated Budapest, Paal arranged a "passport marriage", took her to London and gave her the leading role in his film A Tale of Five Cities (1951) in which an airman (Bonar Colleano) who has lost his memory traces his past by means of five bank- notes he has in his possession, each with the signature of a girl.

After its release, Bartok divorced Paal and in 1951 married the publicist William Wordsworth. The international flavour of her career was quickly established - her next roles took her to Italy (Venetian Bird, 1952) and to both the Bay of Naples and the island of Ischia for one of her best remembered films, The Crimson Pirate (1952).

Though plagued with difficulties during shooting (at one point the star Burt Lancaster called its director Robert Siodmak "a silly old has-been") and rumoured to have been started as a straightforward action tale then switched midstream to farce, the film proved enormously popular. Bartok played Consuelo, the daughter of a revolutionary on a Caribbean island who persuades the pirate Lancaster to swap sides and, instead of helping a Spanish tyrant quash her father's rebellion, lead his ramshackle bunch of swashbucklers to achieve the island's independence.

But Bartok's career failed to move into the major league. Her next roles were in B movies, as a mathematician who stows away in a space rocket with the scientist she loves in Spaceways (1953) and a duplicitous diamond smuggler in Park Palza 605 (1953). She made several films in Germany, including three with her fourth husband, Curt Jurgens, Der Letze Walzer (1953), Rummelplatz der Leibe (Circus of Love, 1954) and Orient Express (1954), but it was her provocative personal life that made her name familiar to the public, notably her stormy marriage to Jurgens and a highly publicised five-year affair with the then Marquess of Milford Haven, who had been best man at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip; Bartok was named in his wife's divorce action.

In 1956 Bartok went to Hollywood to appear in the musical Ten Thousand Bedrooms, in which Dean Martin (in his first film without his partner Jerry Lewis) played the owner of a string of luxury hotels. The marriage of Martin's friend Frank Sinatra to Ava Gardner was just breaking up (they divorced in 1957) and Sinatra and Bartok embarked on an affair. In 1957 Bartok's daughter Deana was born, with both Milford Haven and Jurgens purporting to be the father. Jurgens' name was on the birth certificate, but some years later he confessed that he was infertile, and last year Bartok claimed that Sinatra was Deana's father.

Bartok's film career continued to take her around the world - British films included Operation Amsterdam (1959), as a member of the Dutch resistance in 1940, and a fanciful adventure tale of a bunch of plane-crash survivors who find they have landed at the site of an H-bomb test, S.O.S. Pacific, recently described by its director Guy Green as "pretty indifferent". In 1963 she made a gruesome horror film in Italy, Sei donne per l'assassino (Blood and Black Lace), about a string of fashion model murders, which has gained a reputation due to Mario Bava's atmospheric directing and striking use of colour.

Milford Haven had introduced Bartok to the teachings of the Indonesian guru Pak Subuh, and in 1968 Bartok gave up her career and took her daughter to live a life of "peace and tranquillity" in Jakarta, Indonesia. She then moved to Honolulu, where she opened a school to teach the Subuh philosophy.

Bartok returned to acting in 1974 when she appeared with the soccer star Pele in Pele, King of Football, but it failed to promote further film offers. Recently Eva Bartok, described by her former agent as "at one time one of the most photographed women around and one of the most beautiful women in the world", had been living in a hotel in Paddington.

Tom Vallance

Eva Martha Szoke (Eva Bartok), actress: born Keoskemet, Hungary 18 June 1926; married first Giza Kovas (marriage dissolved), second Alexander Paal (marriage dissolved), third William Wordsworth (marriage dissolved), fourth Curt Jurgens (one daughter; marriage dissolved); died London 1 August 1998.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star