Melina Mercouri


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Greek actress and politician.

Mercouri was born in Athens into a politically active family, her father having been a minister of state and deputy mayor of Athens. After training with the Greek National Theatre Company, she worked successfully in the theatre for a time before making her screen debut in Stella (1955). This was followed by Celui qui doit mourir (1957; He Who Must Die), directed by Jules Dassin (1911–2008), whom she married in 1966. He also directed Never on Sunday (1960), the film with which she has become most closely identified and which brought international recognition, a Best Actress Cannes Festival Award, and an Oscar nomination. Mercouri also appeared in the Broadway musical version, Illya Darling (1967). Other successes include Topkapi (1964), another Dassin film, and several Greek dramas including The Medea, performed on Mount Likavittos, and The Oresteia.

In the sixties Mercouri campaigned against the ruling junta and was forced into exile until a civilian government was restored in 1974. Returning to Greece, she was elected Member of Parliament for the Port of Piraeus in 1977 and appointed minister of culture and science (1981–85), in which role she appealed repeatedly for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain. She was minister of culture, youth, and sports (1985–89). An autobiography, I Was Born Greek, was published in 1971.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Theatre.

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