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Károly Baumann

Sherlock Hochmec, the King of Detectives

Károly Baumann

In remembrance of a Hungarian actor
Author: SherlockExtra and Revati - Translator: Revati

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Our site is always happy and proud to show the Hungarian references in connection with Sherlock Holmes. There is someone we have to mention: Károly Baumann (1871-1920, originally Károly Grünberg), actor and singer.

Baumann's father, Henrik Grünbaum (a policeman, who later worked in catering), died early. Károly had to go to work when he was only 13. He became a typographer, and according to his colleagues he was very talented. He met with success on the stage of the typographers' union as a singer, and at the age of 14 he sang in a cabaret in the capital. He soon became the most beloved performer.

Baumann loved his family very much, he had five children. Many theatres wanted him to act in their company, so they could advertise their programmes with his name. At the zenith of his career he had been diagnosed with laryngeal tuberculosis ( it caused his death later), but he continued to act. He was a modernist, who opened a café and shot a talking picture as well. Among his many other works his Sherlock Hochmec parody had been filmed as well.

At that time there were many cafés in Budapest – they were very popular, artists, journalists, writers and poets all had their favourite places. Despite the fact that Baumann was a honoured artist, his café was uneconomic, though he tried to save it several times. He could tackle with this fiasco. He had a huge family, he got the mastery over his illness and had the grim determination to perform on his native language – these all show that he dared to believe in his dreams and did something for them. In connection with Sherlock Holmes it is often mentioned that he is the symbol of hope. (More information: I believe in Sherlock Holmes ) Károly Baumann, the optimistic man gave lots of hope for Hungarians too. He was a joyous personality, that is why he stressed the humorous side of the detective. He was such a talented actor that even with weakened voice his performances were full of brightness and joy. The audience did not perceive anything of his illness – only his colleagues knew how much he suffered.

It is worth to mention that similar to Jeremy Brett, though Baumann was an acclaimed actor, one of the leading performers of his age, he did not get many awards. In 1905 he received the golden medal of the Hungarian Comic Actors’ Contest, but nothing else. But on the 30th jubilee of his career illustrious Hungarian actors saluted him at a huge celebration in the Orfeum, which was one of the most prestigious cabarets of Budapest.

Károly Baumann

Károly Baumann and the Orfeum.

The following citation is from the website Színészkönyvtár:

„ Károly Baumann was the name of that patriotic actor who was the first to fight for the right of the Hungarian poem and song onstage and proved that it is equivalent with the German song. Hungarian songs can be light and emotional, taunting, obscene, dubious, etc. Without Károly Baumann there would be neither Vilma Medgyaszay, nor King Stephen. By all means he heads the long march of the Hungarian stage song, chanson, couplet and topical song….” – writes Péter Molnár Gál in his book Cabarets in Pest. Károly Baumann is the first to sing literary topical songs and sober pieces as well. While in cultural life the official language is German and many academics and professionals work on the principles of spreading Hungarian language, appears a man, an actor and singer, who is much more succeful alone than the theoretical institutions together. In the world of German songs he brings Hungarian songs and chansons into fashion in a very short period of time. His followers and mimics go after him on the beaten track. Today it is evident that we hear song hits, poems and musicals in Hungarian – but 120 years before the situation was very different. At that time German was the official language in Hungary. And then comes Dezső Gyárfás, Károly Baumann, Béla Zerkovitz, Imre Harmath, Endre Nagy and many others follow them – everything changes at once. For this reason the capital gives Károly Baumann a honorary grave after his death, acknowledging his efforts towards the Hungarian language. ”

Károly Baumann had a play with songs about Sherlock Holmes. He impersonates the detective and skits the famous character of Conan Doyle and his adventures – these were accessible in Hungary in the format of cheap booklets. The play, entitled Sherlock Hochmec, the King of Detectives was written in the 1900s, so we have to rate it accordingly. It had also been recorded, and author Mark Campbell mentions the actor in his book Sherlock Holmes.

Mark Campbell: Sherlock Holmes book

Sherlockian Holmesian

Recommended site:

Mark Campbell: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Jeremy Brett

" Károly Baumann: Sherlock Hochmec, the King of Detectives "

Author: SherlockExtra and Revati

Translator: Revati

Citation sources: Színészkönyvtá

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