Authors: Ferenc Molnár

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Hungarian playwright

Author Works


A doktor úr, pr., pb. 1902

Józsi, pb. 1904

Az ördög, pr., pb. 1907 (The Devil, 1908)

Liliom, pr., pb. 1909 (English translation, 1921)

A testőr, pr., pb. 1910 (The Guardsman, 1910)

A farkas, pr., pb. 1912 (The Wolf, 1914)

A fehér felhő, pr. 1916 (The White Cloud, 1929)

Farsang, pr., pb. 1917 (Carnival, 1924)

Úri divat, pr., pb. 1917 (Fashions for Men, 1922)

A hattyú, pr. 1920 (The Swan, 1922)

A vörös malom, pr. 1922 (The Red Mill, 1928)

Égi és földi szerelem, pr., pb. 1922 (Heavenly and Earthly Love, 1923)

Az üvegcipő, pr., pb. 1924 (The Glass Slipper, 1925)

Játék a kastélyban, pr., pb. 1926 (The Play’s the Thing, 1926)

Olimpia, pr., pb. 1928 (Olympia, 1928)

The Plays of Ferenc Molnár, pb. 1929

Egy-kettő-három, pb. 1929 (One, Two, Three, 1930)

A jó tündér, pb. 1930 (The Good Fairy, 1932)

Valaki, pr., pb. 1932 (Arthur, 1946)

Delila, pr., pb. 1937 (Delilah, 1947)

Romantic Comedies: Eight Plays by Ferenc Molnár, pb. 1952

Long Fiction:

Magdolna és egyéb elbeszélések, 1898

Az éhes város, 1901

Égy gazdátlan csónak története, 1901 (The Derelict Boat, 1926)

Éva, 1903 (English translation, 1926)

Rabok, 1907 (Prisoners, 1925)

A Pál-utcai fiúk, 1907 (The Paul Street Boys, 1927)

A zenélő angyal, 1933 (Angel Making Music, 1935)

Kekszemű, 1942 (The Blue-Eyed Lady, 1942)

The Captain of St. Margaret’s: Twenty-five Chapters of Memoires, 1945

Isten veled szivem, 1947 (Farewell My Heart, 1945)

Short Fiction:

Muzsika, 1908

Ketten beszélnek, 1909 (Stories for Two, 1950)

Széntolvajok, 1918


Pesti erkölcsök, 1909

Hétágú síp, 1911

Ma, tegnap, tegnapelőtt, 1912

Az aruvimi erdő titka és egyéb szatirák, 1916

Égy haditudósitó emlékei, 1916

Ismerősök, 1917

Husbands and Lovers, 1924

Toll, 1928

Utitárs a száműzetésben, 1958 (Companion in Exile: Notes for an Autobiography, 1950).


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).{$I[AN]9810000432}{$I[A]Molnár, Ferenc}{$I[geo]HUNGARY;Molnár, Ferenc}{$I[tim]1878;Molnár, Ferenc}

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 (who became Billy Bigelow in the highly sentimentalized 1945 American musical version, Carousel) epitomizes the modern misfit who can do no good no matter how good his intentions. The Guardsman is a witty play on the triangle theme in which the husband disguises himself in order to find out whether his wife will carry on a flirtation. She claims that she was aware of the disguise all along, but the audience is left as unsure as her husband. In The Swan, the young princess who falls in love below her station is advised to give up her tutor friend rather than go out into a world where her regal qualities will be as grotesque as a swan out of water. His final important work, The Play’s the Thing, contains a most delightful play-within-a-play, contrived by a group of theatrical folk to prevent a young actress from straying from her composer fiancé.

In all these plays, except perhaps Liliom, the romantic, effervescent touch of the charming and elegant playwright produces exceptionally good theater. Molnár’s brilliance of writing faded fast, however, and his later years were spent in reliving his former successes.

When the political situation leading up to World War II became untenable, Molnár emigrated to the United States and established himself, his wife, and his secretary-mistress, Wanda Bartha, in New York City’s Plaza Hotel. He ignored the considerable scandal created by their ménage à trois and became the center of a literary community of distinguished refugees from Europe. His writing suffered, probably because he so enjoyed cultivating the life of celebrity, and the only new theatrical success he enjoyed was Carousel. Molnár became grief-stricken when his mistress died in 1947. He paid tribute to her in his final book, Companion in Exile: Notes for an Autobiography, and he died two years later at age seventy-four.

BibliographyGyörgyey, Clara. Ferenc Molnár. Boston: Twayne, 1980. Major critical biography, which follows the standard Twayne format, examining the life and works of the playwright. Includes index and bibliography.Hornby, Richard. “The Play’s the Thing.” The Hudson Review 47 (Winter, 1995). Comments on the relevance of Molnár.Marcus, Frank. Introduction to The Guardsman, by Ferenc Molnár. Translated by Marcus. London: Eyre Methuen, 1978. Marcus provides a complete time line and comments on Molnár and the play.Rajec, Elizabeth M. Ferenc Molnár: Bibliography. 2 vols. Vienna: H. Böhlaus, 1986. Rajec provides a bibliography of primary and secondary sources in English, German, and Hungarian on Molnár. Includes indexes.Várkonyi, István. Ferenc Molnár and the Austro-Hungarian “Fin de Siecle.” New York: Peter Lang, 1992. Várkonyi examines the life and works of Molnár as well as intellectual life in Austro-Hungary during the twentieth century. Bibliographical references.
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