Magda Gabor, the Most Interesting Gabor Sister

October 10, 2022

In the latter half of the 1900s, the beautiful Gabor sisters and their glamorous mother, all fled their native Hungary, which was occupied by the Nazis during World War II, and made their way to California. There, mother Jolie and her daughters, Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva, established themselves as wealthy socialites who – long before the Kardashians – were famous for being famous. 

A colorized photo of Magda Gabor, the oldest Gabor sister. (Getty Images)

While her younger sisters, Zsa Zsa and Eva, were well-known for their numerous film, television, and Broadway roles, all three sisters were sought-after socialites who stayed in the public’s eye by throwing or attending the best parties and by marrying multiple times. It can be argued, however, that the eldest sister, Magda Gabor, was the most interesting of the trio. Through these colorized photos, we will find out why.

Magda Gabor in World War II

Born in 1915, Magda Gabor’s parents, mother Jolie, and a soldier named Vilmos Gabor were both Jewish. Magda, like her sister and her mother, was quite beautiful and learned as a young girl how to use her looks and sex appeal to get what she wanted. But her home country of Hungary was under attack in the early 1940s. The Nazis occupied the country and Hungarian Jews were targeted. She joined the Hungarian Underground and helped to decipher coded messages and aid in the escape of Hungarian prisoners. She used her feminine guiles to woo Carlos Sampaio Garrido, the Portuguese ambassador to Hungary. In fact, Magda convinced him to propose to her. She used his political connections to first help her mother flee Hungary and then she left Hungary herself. She arrived in Portugal in 1944 and did not marry Sampaio. Instead, she became the mistress of Jose Luis de Vilallonga, a Spanish nobleman. 

Coming to America

Magda Gabor, shown in this colorized photo, learned at an early age how to get men to help her get what she wanted. (Getty Images)

Through her romantic relationship with Jose Luis de Vilallonga, Magda Gabor first traveled from Portugal to Brazil and then from Brazil to the United States where her mother and two sisters had settled. Very quickly, she married an American man, Hollywood writer William Rankin, so she could get her U.S. citizenship and stay in the country. This was actually the second of her six marriages. She was briefly married while still living in Hungary. Her first husband was Jan Bychowsky, a Polish count and a pilot with the Royal Air Force.

Magda joined her mother and two sisters in Palm Springs, California. The Gabor sisters were all beautiful, charming, witty, and glamorous. They wore the most stylish clothes and accessorized with precious jewels. Plus, they retained their exotic Hungarian accents that made them sound like European royalty. People loved it. The Gabors were an important part of Palm Springs society and were invited to all the swankiest parties.

Madga’s Acting Career

Like her sisters, Magda Gabor set her sights on Hollywood. Since she had acted in a film in her native Hungary in 1937, Magda hoped to continue acting in the U.S. She did find work in television, mostly in TV variety shows and her sister Eva’s TV show but did not appear in any more films.

Magda’s younger sisters, however, found a certain degree of fame as actresses. Zsa Zsa appeared in Moulin Rouge, Girl in the Kremlin, For the First Time, and The Naked Gun 2 ½. She appeared on Broadway in Forty Carats and made dozens of guest appearances on television sitcoms and variety shows. Eva took roles in numerous films, including Summer of Surrender, Paris Model, and It Started with a Kiss. She was best known for starring in the TV sitcom, Green Acres, and for voicing Duchess in The Aristocats and Bianca in The Rescuers