Melina Mercouri

Actor, Singer, Politician
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 ... Read more »
Born: 10/17/1923 in Athens, Georgia, USA

Filmography

Actor (19)

The Struggle For Democracy 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Keine Zufallige Geschichte 1982 (Movie)

(Actor)

A Dream of Passion 1978 (Movie)

Maya (Actor)

Nasty Habits 1977 (Movie)

Sister Gertrude (Actor)

Once Is Not Enough 1975 (Movie)

Karta (Actor)

Gaily, Gaily 1969 (Movie)

Queen Lil (Actor)

La Promesse de l'aube 1969 (Movie)

(Actor)

10:30 P.M. Summer 1966 (Movie)

Maria (Actor)

A Man Could Get Killed 1965 (Movie)

Aurora Celeste da Costa (Actor)

Topkapi 1964 (Movie)

Elizabeth Lipp (Actor)

Phaedra 1962 (Movie)

Phaedra (Actor)

The Victors 1962 (Movie)

Magda (Actor)

Never On Sunday 1960 (Movie)

Ilya (Actor)

The Last Judgement 1960 (Movie)

(Actor)

Where the Hot Winds Blows! 1960 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Gypsy and the Gentleman 1958 (Movie)

Belle (Actor)

He Who Must Die 1957 (Movie)

Katerina (Actor)

Stella 1957 (Movie)

Stella (Actor)
Music (1)

Munich 2005 (Movie)

("Never On Sunday") (Song Performer)

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.

Relationships

Irene Eliopoulos

Mother

Jules Dassin

Husband
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)

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

Stamatis Mercouri

Father
legislator Minister of (Greek) Interior deputy mayor of Athens ran off with an actor before divorce

Spiro Mercouri

Brother
campaign manager for sister's mayoral bid

EDUCATION

National Theater Academy

Milestones

1994

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

1993

Returned to her post as Minister of Culture in October

1990

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

1989

Diagnosed with lung cancer

1977

Elected member of Greek Parliament for the Port of Piraeus

1974

Lost bid for seat in Greek Parliament by a narrow margin

1974

Regained Greek citizenship

1972

Starred on Broadway in "Lysistrata"

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

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

1960

Breakthrough film, "Never on Sunday"

1957

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

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

1954

Appeared on Greek stage in "Stella"

1943

Made stage debut

Helped found the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in the 1970s after the overthrow of the Greek Colonels

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 theater

Named Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports

Moved to Paris with Dassin

Bonus Trivia

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"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.

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"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.

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