People in Mátészalka are justifiably proud of their town, simultaneously with New York, the light came on in 1888. Commemorating this historic moment, the settlement is often referred as the town of light, but the small town of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg is also mentioned as the cradle of Hollywood. Indeed, many people don’t know, but Adolf Zukor, the founder of the Paramount Pictures film company, one of the fathers of film production in Hollywood, was born here, and the family of the legendary American actor who won two Golden Globe Awards comes from here.
Tony Curtis was proud of his Hungarian origin
The sex symbol of Hollywood was born by the name of Bernard Schwartz June 3, 1925. His family is from Mátészalka, his parents, Emanuel Schwartz and Ilona Klein, emigrated to the USA from here. The later film star joined the navy at a very young age, 18 years old where he served until the end of the war. Then he started to work at the Universal Studio in California where his talent was recognized soon, he took the stage name Tony Curtis. He rose to fame in 1959 with the film Some like it hot in which he played the role of a handsome saxophonist as Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemon’s partner. After the premier the handsome actor was celebrated as a star. During his career he appeared in numerous box office hits, his professional life earned him two Golden Globe Awards and an Oscar nomination. The legendary actor, who was also known as the prince of Hollywood, was extremely proud of his Hungarian origin, he went to Hungary several times in his life and he visited his parents’ home in Mátészalka as well. He died of a heart attack at the age of 85 in his wife, Jill’s arms at his home in Nevada in 2010.
A café and an exhibition treasure the brilliant actor’s memory
In the Szalkai-Schwartz house — which is the first electrified house in the country — the Tony Curtis café and a memorial room were opened in the summer of 2021. Entering the renovated historical building we get through a hall into the café bearing the slogan Some like it hot where American film production sparks to life: movie posters, old talkie projectors and photo wall determine the atmosphere. Even the lamps resemble studio reflectors used on film shoot. The place is neat and modern, but coffee offer is also uncluttered. The most popular versions — espresso, lungo, cappuccino, latte — however all can be found on the list. Although, we don’t recommend the place to coffee snobs but if you simply long for a good black coffee, you won’t leave disappointed.
The free exhibition illustrating the actor’s life and work takes place on the left of the café, it cannot be missed because of the huge Tony Curtis signature above the entrance. Entering the memorial room we can learn the main stages of the legendary artist’s life by the timeline placed on the wall. In the room there are many relics, personal items which were passes down to the town by his widow, Jill Curtis. Including costumes worn in many films, the actor’s pictures painted by himself, but even a special letter of gratitude from the White House that was written by George W. Bush for the legend. Moreover, in the corner of the room even a small stage furnished as a studio was given a place.
Three shows at one stroke!
Two other free exhibitions can be visited too in the more then 200 hundred-year-old Szalkai-Schwartz house. The Dolls’ world show presents an incredibly diverse collection of more than a thousand dolls collected by Éva Reményi, Mrs. István Szamosi, former pre-school leader. In exhibition of the history of lighting we can meet greats of electricity among others: those Hungarian engineers and scientist without whom we couldn’t have such “sparkling life”.