Ferenc Molnár Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

A true cosmopolitan, Ferenc Molnár was born to a wealthy family and lived in luxury most of his life. The son of Dr. Mór Neumann, a prosperous Jewish physician, and Jozefa Wallfisch, a frail, sickly woman, Molnár and his only sister, Erzsébet, were reared by nannies and taught by tutors as young children. In 1887, Molnár entered the Református Gimnázium, a Calvinist high school, where, at the age of fourteen, he began to write, launching a student newspaper and undertaking his first dramatic venture. After he was graduated in 1895, Molnár enrolled at the University of Budapest to study law, where he formed the habit of sitting in the Central Café to study and entertain friends with his bons mots and puns. His father quickly sent him to Geneva to continue his legal training there but to no avail. While abroad, Molnár began to write in earnest, sending home vivid reports to be published in the Budapest papers. He also finished a novel, Magdolna és egyéb elbeszélések (1898), while traveling in France. After returning home, he abandoned law and became a full-time journalist, working for József Vészi’s Budapesti napló. Soon he published a new novel, Az éhes város (1901; the hungry city), and saw the opening of his first play, A doktor úr (the lawyer).

In the ensuing years, Molnár published at least one book a year, and his fame grew rapidly. His charm, wit, and banter made him the favorite...

(The entire section is 599 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in Budapest, into a merchant family, on January 12, 1878, Ferenc Molnár (MAWL-nahr) lived the life that he so often characterized in his plays: the witty, sophisticated, leisured life of the cultured bohemian. He was educated as a lawyer, at the universities in Budapest and Geneva, and his first literary work was a brilliant discussion of the psychology of crime. By the time he was eighteen he was writing for a Budapest paper whose circulation he increased greatly by his scintillatingly witty essays and character sketches. He also married the editor’s daughter, Margaret Vaszi. He was soon divorced, only to marry and then remarry—his third wife was the celebrated Hungarian beauty and actress Lili Darvas, noted for her successes with Max Reinhardt. During World War I Molnár served as a war correspondent for the Central Powers, detailing his experiences in Égy haditudósitó emlékei (diary of a war correspondent).

While he wrote much fiction—little has been translated into English—his dramas were his forte with the exception of the novel, The Paul Street Boys, a story of a Hungarian adolescence. The Devil, his first important play, came out that same year. This work shows the devil as an engaging fellow who is a master of means to marital infidelity. Liliom first appeared two years later, unsuccessfully, only to become one of the most-produced plays of the century ten years later. Its roughneck barker hero...

(The entire section is 548 words.)