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EVA & I


Beautiful Eva Bartok...
A dedication
by Omar Martinez, Los Angeles 2001


On Saturday August 1st, 1998, Hungarian actress EVA BARTOK died in London at age 71.   The press, always so solicitous with these kind of morbid details, reported that she had died "homeless, penniless and alone."

On August 11th, during the funeral services, her daughter Deana made the ultimate tribute to the dead star when she candidly commented on the  press reports: "Homeless, because she never appreciated the domestic trappings in life.  Penniless, because she didn't really care about money.  Alone - she was not!  God was with her, I was with her in spirit, and so were many other people."
Bravo Deana!  Thanks for setting the record straight!  Nobody could have said it better.
You were so right!    I know...   I am one of the "many other people..." As a matter of fact , for most of my life there was seldom a day in which I was not with Eva Bartok in spirit...

CUBAN CINEMA PARADISO

I was born in Matanzas, Cuba...  A beautiful little city in a beautiful little country.  As I was growing up there was not much happening in Matanzas...  I was dutifully going to school, playing with my friends and of course, during the summer, my parents would take us to Varadero, a beautiful near-by beach, to swim and take in all the tropical sunshine...  
Actually, you can swim in Cuban beaches all year around, but for us natives the proper time
for that diversion was summer, June through August, and we made fun of tourists enjoying Cuban waters in September and, God help us!, even in December...

The people of my hometown were very devoted to the arts... That's why Matanzas was always called "The Athens of Cuba," because of its rich cultural past and present... It seemed like everybody in Matanzas was part of or attended some kind of artistic activity and, among the many offered, the movies was one of the most popular.  We had six or seven movie houses.
 I remember that, at least two of them, were devoted to Hollywood films.  In the others you could see films in Spanish, from Mexico, Spain, Argentina and even Cuba.  Also a good sampling of European and Japanese cinema was offered everywhere.

OPERATION AMSTERDAM
 I can't remember why I went to see this  U.K. film titled "Operation Amsterdam". Maybe I had read something about it somewhere or maybe I had been impressed by the beautiful Rank publicity in the theater lobby or maybe it was that I loved war movies in those days.  

I was nine or ten years old when I sat in that dark movie house and took in the Michael McCarthy 1959 film... It moved me. The story seemed so real.  It was like watching history in the making.
The tragedies!  The suspense!  The heroism!
Thinking back in time, it's very possible that "Operation Amsterdam"  made such a dent on me due to the suspenseful times we were actually living at that time in Cuba... The revolution had triumphed, there had been a period of optimism which was now being replaced by gloomier concerns... I could sense that the Matanzas I had grown up in was crumbling.  It was the end of a world, of a society, of a people...and there was confusion...

In "Operation Amsterdam" the mood is identical and the heroine (played by Miss Bartok) says at one point: "There's no truth left in Holland"... It was the same in 1960 Cuba.

GROWING UP WITH EVA

My love affair with Eva and with "OPERATION AMSTERDAM"  was in full swing.  Now I wanted to know more about her, but these were the early sixties in Cuba and the  film magazines were no longer  printed. All printing was devoted to government propaganda. Nothing was allowed in from other countries.   
I decided to research Eva from the past and started checking out all the old magazines that family, neighbors and friends kept
stacked away.  I spent hours but my efforts paid off since  I found plenty of Eva references and pictures...
 Later I found a paperback book, edited in 1958 which had the whole Eva Bartok story...
From her beginnings in Hungary to her recent "miraculous" cure of cancer and birth of Deana... I was fascinated... I found the woman sometimes even more interesting than the actress  on the screen.  What impressed me the most was her honesty, her uniqueness and her freedom...  I said, right then and there, I must be like her...honest, original and free!

My family and friends sometimes misunderstood  my honesty.... My uniqueness was also a source of controversy, but as far as the freedom, I had full family support!  After a lot of red tape, my mother was able to send me to Miami to live with an aunt... At first I was not happy with the idea.  You see, I really wanted to stay and save Cuba...(as Eva did in "Amsterdam"!)   But mother was terrified that I would reach the age of 15 when it is mandatory to join the Cuban communist  army...so off to Miami with my Bartok honesty, originality and now...true freedom!  It took my family over 15 years to reunite in the United States...Those were very difficult  sad times... Not too long ago I finally read Eva's "Worth Living For" and could identify so much with her struggle to get her mother out of Hungary.

TIME MOVES ON...

I reached my teen years in Miami and later in Chicago... always watching the TV listings for a Bartok film.  It was almost impossible to see her 60's films in the U.S. movie houses since very few foreign films have box office appeal in this country...and it's a shame... I didn't see Eva or heard from her in a long time, but  never forgot her....

My adult years have been spent mostly in show business. I have earned a living as a writer and as a television producer among other activities... I have met many stars, some of them real legends, but I always felt deep inside a certain emptiness for not being able to reach Eva.
In the late 1970's I read that she had a school in Hawaii where she conducted seminars about  Subud. I tried contacting her there...I was willing to go through"latihan" for love of Eva..!  
But my shy and ignorant  efforts where unsuccessful.

Since home video came along I made it a point to own her movies, which to say the least, are difficult to find.  It was a great day for me when in the mid 90s I was able to buy "OPERATION AMSTERDAM" on video....  I sat  alone and watched it and tears came to my eyes...  What memories...what a woman!  Since then I have watched that film over and over and it still inspires me...  I never understood that critics and writers through the years have dismissed it  as "customary war fare" and other less friendly terms...  The other Bartok films that I have seen amaze me.  First, for the variety of genres that she tackled in her career.  Second, because no matter how bad a particular film might be, Miss Bartok's performance is always honest...
 Proof of her honesty as an actress and as a woman .  If Eva would have been born earlier and started her career in the "golden era of films" she would be out there  with the likes of Garbo, Dietrich, Davis, Crawford, et all.  I am firmly convinced of that...

CONCLUSION

But there is no sense in dwelling on what "might have been"...  I don't think Eva ever did that... She was an actress that worked hard and lived her life to the fullest...  She touched a lot of people with her beauty, her performances and her charisma...  I am also sure that she was  very loving and generous  with her family and friends....  The fact that her daughter Deana respects her so much is sufficient evidence and I bet Eva was no traditional mom by any standards !

This humble tribute to EVA BARTOK comes straight from my heart.  With it I wish to convey to her my gratitude for all the good times she gave me and for how she enriched my life...
It would have been very boring without her...  

I know she can see this and hear me...  I'll never forget you.
Sleep well,  my dear, sweet  Eva...