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Melina Mercouri

Melina Mercouri

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Also Known As: Maria Amalia Mercouri Died: March 6, 1994
Born: October 18, 1923 Cause of Death: lung cancer
Birth Place: Athens, Greece Profession: actor, singer, politician

Biography CLOSE THE FULL 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...

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.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Dream of Passion, A (1978) Maya
3.
 Nasty Habits (1977) Sister Gertrude
4.
 Promise at Dawn (1970) Nina Kacew
5.
 Gaily, Gaily (1969) Queen Lil
6.
 The Uninhibited (1968) Jenny
7.
 10:30 P.M. Summer (1966) Maria
8.
 A Man Could Get Killed (1966) Aurora-Celeste
9.
 Topkapi (1964) Elizabeth Lipp
10.
 The Victors (1963) Magda
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

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"
:
Moved to Paris with Dassin
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"
:
Helped found the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in the 1970s after the overthrow of the Greek Colonels
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
:
Appointed Minister of Culture and Sciences for the Greek government during which time she lobbied for the return of the Elgin Marbles, abolished museum fees for all Greeks and initiated the building of a new Acropolis Museum; new little provincial theaters were financed and backing was given to young, untried filmmakers
:
Named Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
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
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

National Theater Academy: -

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.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Panayiotis Harokopos. Married c. 1942; eloped; was in his thirties at the time; divorced his wife, a Romanian dancer, to marry Mercouri; Cambridge-educated; divorced.
husband:
Jules Dassin. 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).

Family close complete family listing

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

Bibliography close complete biography

"I Was Born Greek"

Contributions

India2u ( 2007-05-14 )

Source: Google

Melina's grandfather was the mayor of Athens and he gave her her nickname "Melina", which means "honey". Her family and friends frequently referred to her as "Melinaki", meaning, "Little Honey".

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