Melina Mercouri


Actor
Melina Mercouri

About

Also Known As
Maria Amalia Mercouri
Birth Place
Athens, Greece
Born
October 18, 1923
Died
March 06, 1994
Cause of Death
Lung Cancer

Biography

Fiery, smoky-voiced Greek stage and screen actress with green eyes and natural blonde hair, adept at both drama and comedy. Melina Mercouri was in many ways a parallel figure to stars ranging from Hollywoodites Susan Hayward and Joan Crawford to Italy's Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani, with a star persona manifesting an outsize personality, a penchant for melodrama and a riveting lust for ...

Family & Companions

Panayiotis Harokopos
Husband
Married c. 1942; eloped; was in his thirties at the time; divorced his wife, a Romanian dancer, to marry Mercouri; Cambridge-educated; divorced.
Jules Dassin
Husband
Director. Married 1966; born December 18, 1911; met in 1955 at the Cannes Film Festival where Mercouri's film "Stella" was shown; American; left the US after being blacklisted during the HUAC hearings; Swiss resident; had previously been married to Beatrice Launer (1933-62).

Bibliography

"I Was Born Greek"
Melina Mercouri (1972)

Notes

"She has a very aggressive sexuality, which is rare in a female film star. It's almost masculine. She's always been rather emancipated--she knows what she wants and she knows how to get it." --British journalist Peter Aspden quoted in Vanity Fair, February 1991.

"Even today Melina Mercouri is the quintessential champagne socialist. Her baths are drawn by servants, her clothes laid out. During the mayor's race she voted in Armani." --Maureen Orth in "'La Pasionaria' of the Acropolis" in Vanity Fair, February 1991.

Biography

Fiery, smoky-voiced Greek stage and screen actress with green eyes and natural blonde hair, adept at both drama and comedy. Melina Mercouri was in many ways a parallel figure to stars ranging from Hollywoodites Susan Hayward and Joan Crawford to Italy's Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani, with a star persona manifesting an outsize personality, a penchant for melodrama and a riveting lust for life. An established stage performer by the early 1950s, she made her film debut as a free-living bouzouki cafe singer in 1955 in Michael Cacoyannis' Greek-language film, "Stella," which was expressly written for her. Mercouri achieved international stardom with a number of features directed by the expatriate American director Jules Dassin, whom she married in 1966 and with whom she collaborated on nine films. Among these, audiences probably best remember Mercouri's delightful, performance as a sentimental, happy-go-lucky prostitute in her signature film, "Never on Sunday" (1960). She also brought her volatile screen persona to "Phaedra" (1961), an old-fashioned star vehicle disguised as updated Greek mythology, and was suitably tongue-in-cheek in the enjoyable caper escapade, "Topkapi" (1964) and middling spy adventure, "A Man Could Get Killed" (1966).

Long a political activist who sought to symbolize the soul of Greek national identity, Mercouri lived an off screen life as adventurous as any torrid melodrama she enacted onscreen. An outspoken woman of principle, she was expelled from Greece by the notorious Colonels' Junta in 1967 but eventually returned in 1974 and won a parliamentary seat for the Socialist party in 1977. Mercouri's acting career gradually abated as she become increasingly involved in politics, but she did appear onstage in her native land as well as on Broadway in "Ilya, Darling" (1967-68). She also continued acting in occasional international films, including the trashy "Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough" (1975). Mercouri later became the flamboyant and controversial Greek Minister of Culture and Sciences and gained her greatest attention in that capacity when she successfully lobbied for the return of the Elgin Marbles, classical sculptures which the British Museum had removed from the Parthenon in the 19th century. Mercouri later ran unsuccessfully for the office of Mayor of Athens in 1990 while still retaining her seat in Parliament and returned to her ministerial job in October of 1993, not long before her death from lung cancer complications. For both her acting achievements on stage and screen and for her zestful commitment to Greek art and politics, Mercouri was justly mourned as a national heroine.

Life Events

1944

Made stage debut

1954

Appeared on Greek stage in "Stella"

1955

Film debut in Michael Cacoyannis's "Stella", Mercouri's only film in Greek

1955

First met Jules Dassin at the Cannes Film Festival where "Stella" was screened

1957

First film with director Dassin, "He Who Must Die"

1960

Breakthrough film, "Never on Sunday"

1967

Greek citizenship revoked; restored in 1974

1967

Left Greece during the reign of the Colonels' Junta; her films and songs were banned and a warrant was issued for her arrest; eventually lost her Greek citizenship

1967

Broadway musical debut, "Ilya, Darling"; received a Tony nomination as Best Actress in a musical; after Colonels' Junta, made a spech onstage about what was happening in Greece

1972

Starred on Broadway in "Lysistrata"

1974

Regained Greek citizenship

1974

Lost bid for seat in Greek Parliament by a narrow margin

1977

Elected member of Greek Parliament for the Port of Piraeus

1989

Diagnosed with lung cancer

1990

Lost her bid to become Mayor of Athens with a 46% of the local vote

1993

Returned to her post as Minister of Culture in October

1994

Underwent surgery in February to remove a small tumor from her right lung; complications set in

Photo Collections

Never on Sunday - Movie Poster
Here is the American-release One-Sheet Movie Poster from the Greek film Never on Sunday (1960), by Jules Dassin. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Topkapi (1964) -- (Movie Clip) How Swiss Of You Having spoken to the camera in the opening, footloose globe-trotting jewel thief Elizabeth (Melina Mercouri, wife of director Jules Dassin) begins to plan the job, with lover William (Maximillian Schell), early in Topkapi, a very loose adaptation of Eric Ambler's novel Light Of Day.
Topkapi (1964) -- (Movie Clip) Brutus Spent The Night Dockside English hustler Simpson (Peter Ustinov) at work in Istanbul, Despo Diamantidou his sidekick, not aware he's being sized up for a jewel heist team by Walter (Maximillian Schell) and Elizabeth (Melina Mercouri, wife of the director Jules Dassin), still early in Topkapi, 1964.
Never On Sunday (1960) -- (Movie Clip) With Such A Moon Plying her trade as a seaport hustler, Illia (Melina Mercouri) has sympathy for "A Sailor" (Dimitri Papamkail), for whom all is not lost, in Never On Sunday, 1960, directed by Mercouri's husband, Jules Dassin.
Never On Sunday (1960) -- (Movie Clip) Amateur Philosopher Rescued from a near-brawl in a Greek bar, American Homer (writer, director and star Jules Dassin) meets Illia (Dassin's wife Melina Mercouri) and her friend "The Captain," (Mitsos Liguisos), in Never On Sunday, 1960.
Never On Sunday (1960) -- (Movie Clip) A Greek Is A Greek Prologue and a portion of the opening credits, introduction of Illia (Melina Mercouri), and briefly her husband, co-star and director Jules Dassin (as "Homer"), from Never On Sunday, 1960.
Law, The (1960) -- (Movie Clip) When A Girl Sings Quite brilliant work by director Jules Dassin and cinematographer Otello Martelli, introducing characters (Melina Mercouri, Lydia Alfonsi et al) especially Marietta (Gina Lollobrigida) in their Sicilian town in The Law, 1960.

Trailer

Family

Stamatis Mercouri
Father
Politician. Legislator; Minister of (Greek) Interior; deputy mayor of Athens; ran off with an actor before divorce.
Irene Eliopoulos
Mother
Spiro Mercouri
Brother
Campaign manager for sister's mayoral bid.

Companions

Panayiotis Harokopos
Husband
Married c. 1942; eloped; was in his thirties at the time; divorced his wife, a Romanian dancer, to marry Mercouri; Cambridge-educated; divorced.
Jules Dassin
Husband
Director. Married 1966; born December 18, 1911; met in 1955 at the Cannes Film Festival where Mercouri's film "Stella" was shown; American; left the US after being blacklisted during the HUAC hearings; Swiss resident; had previously been married to Beatrice Launer (1933-62).

Bibliography

"I Was Born Greek"
Melina Mercouri (1972)

Notes

"She has a very aggressive sexuality, which is rare in a female film star. It's almost masculine. She's always been rather emancipated--she knows what she wants and she knows how to get it." --British journalist Peter Aspden quoted in Vanity Fair, February 1991.

"Even today Melina Mercouri is the quintessential champagne socialist. Her baths are drawn by servants, her clothes laid out. During the mayor's race she voted in Armani." --Maureen Orth in "'La Pasionaria' of the Acropolis" in Vanity Fair, February 1991.