Behind the scenes of the life of a great actor, the father of Romanian cinema: Tony Bulandra failed the Baccalaureate, but passed the “exam of life”

When you say “Bulandra”, you automatically think of the theatre in the capital that hosts hundreds of the most famous plays every year.

However, apart from Lucia Sturdza Bulandra, the first director of this cultural institution, there was also the actor Tony Bulandra, considered by some to be the father of Romanian film, as you will see below.

Tony Bulandra – archive photo

Tony Bulandra and the failure that guided his life: the failed Baccalaureate exam, the chance for a new start where he should have been

Tony Bulandra was born on March 13, 1881, in the former capital of the Romanian Country, the city of Targoviste. Bulandra was drawn to the theatre from an early age, and when he was old enough to do so, he followed his passion, being trained by the great Constantin Nottara himself.

Years and years later, he was to mark a true first in Romanian cinema, starring in the first filmed performance on the big screen. In other words, in the first Romanian film.

He was born into a large family of 11 children, most of them boys, and spent his childhood on his parents’ estate. Later, he went to high school in Bucharest and studied at the same time at the Conservatory of Dramatic Art, under the tutelage of Nottara, as mentioned above.

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His failed Baccalaureate exam would bring him to feel extremely ashamed, so he hid from the eyes of the world and went on tour with the Nottara troupe. What at first seemed a necessity turned out to be the luck of his life.

“My childhood was spent at my parents’ estate. I’ll never forget the times when I used to set off and frolic across the plain, in the sunshine, among the fields… That’s all… I went to high school in Bucharest. I wasn’t a very good student. My head wasn’t in my studies. Instead, I was a recitalist at all the school functions.

By then, a love for the theater had been born in my soul. When I was in the sixth grade of high school, I entered the conservatory. My parents were against it. I had to make a solemn promise to them that I would take my baccalaureate. On that condition they allowed me…”, Tony Bulandra wrote at one point, according to

The first play he ever acted in was called Pygmalion, written by Bengescu-Dabija, in which the actor played the role of Phadrel.

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In 1914, together with his wife, Lucia Sturdza Bulandra (mentioned at the beginning of this article), he founded the Mărioara Voiculescu-Bulandra Dramatic Campaign, and at the same time he was setting up the Modern Theatre. In 1924, ten years later, he also founded the Maximilian Sorin Bulandra Campaign.

Tony Bulandra – archive photo

The first Romanian films started with him

Incidentally, Tony Bulandra starred in the first Romanian films ever released. To elaborate, in 1911, Amor Fatal appeared, a film of which he was part of the cast, as well as Dragoste la Mănăstire, a film that debuted a year later, in 1912.

On April 5, 1943, Bulandra died in Bucharest, leaving the Romanian theatre and film world in mourning. Posthumously, he was awarded the Romanian Star, in the rank of Commander, with the Order of Cultural Merit, as well as the French Legion of Honour.

As was only natural, the municipal theatre of Târgoviște, the town where he was born, now bears his name, the whole town being proud of its truly honoured citizen.

It can therefore be said that Tony Bulandra paved the way to success for other actors who, over time, were to become great. He remained in the history of Romanian cinema, but also in the history of theatre.

Perhaps most important of all, in an era when film was ridiculed, he had faith in this niche of acting and, more than that, a visionary of sorts, he knew and felt that this was the natural way of things.

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