The legendary Greek actress died at 96 Irene Papas: He has starred in over 70 films during a career spanning 50 years, according to the Athens Ministry of Culture cited by all the Hellenic media.
The Papas (THE BOARD) also starred in the part of Penelope in the famous Italian TV drama ‘The Odyssey’, with Bekim Fehmiu.
GOODBYE IRENE PAPAS, THE CHARISM OF GREECE AT THE CINEMA 50 OF CAREER (by Giorgio Gosetti)
There are actresses who mark their careers beyond stardom and become myths for that indefinable charisma that places them at the center of the scene every time they appear on the screen (or on stage). This was the legend of Irene Lelekouknown to all as Irene Papas from the surname of the first (and only) husband with whom she actually lived only five years, from 1947 to 1951 when, in a few days, the chrysalis turned into a butterfly thanks to the success of her first film, “La città morta” by Frixos Iliadis . She is the daughter of a theater teacher and a teacher, perhaps of Albanian origin, born in Chiliomodi on 3 September 1926 (but the date is uncertain), Irene grew up in a small village near Corinth in the Peloponnese and then moved to Athens with her family. She enrolled in the Academy of Dramatic Art, she follows her father’s directions falling in love with the great classics, but she also shows off as a model for an Italian fashion house.
Practically a debut in the cinema, she found herself at the Cannes film festival in 1952 with “The dead City” and everyone notices her not only for the charisma on the screen but for the frequent dinners aboard the Aga Khan yacht. She leaves the Croisette like a diva and accepts the proposal of the Italian Lux Film who offers her a contract. She will act for Matarazzo, Steno, Freda, Francisci on the wave of the rampant fashion of the Peplum: raven hair, intense and enchanting gaze, excellent technique, the ideal icon of costume films that wink at ancient Greece and all ‘Orient. She will be Faidia alongside Gianna Maria Canale in “Theodora“and Grune alongside Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn in “Attila“(1954).
The encounter with the great American actor surprisingly opens the doors to Hollywood where successful directors like Robert Wise fall in love with her Mediterranean physicality (“The law of the halter”) and Joseph Lerner (“The Adventures of the Three Musketeers”). However, she returns to her homeland where she is already in great demand, but she is still Hollywood making her fortune in 1961: Fox calls her for a role in “The cannons of Navarone” by Jack Lee Thompson with Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn. It is a war film set in Greece and will have a worldwide success followed, three years later, by the even more sensational one of “Zorba the Greek”again with his pygmalion Anthony Quinn and directed by Michael Cacoyannis.
To graduate it as the absolute protagonist, however, is the“Electra” by Cacoyannis, a Greek-American co-production from Sophocles’ tragedy. Shot in 1962 after a convincing one “Antigone”, the film is nominated for an Oscar and confirms all the talents of its interpreter. From this moment on, a second career began for Irene Papas, often intertwined with Italian auteur cinema and which made her choose Italy as her adoptive homeland. She will turn “To each his own” for Elio Petri, “NP“for Silvano Agosti, “Rome well” for Carlo Lizzani“I will be her father” for Alberto Lattuada in a decade illuminated above all by the extraordinary television success of “The Odyssey” by Sandro Bolchi in which she was Penelope alongside Bekim Femyu in 1968.
Restless soul, international star, political activist exiled by the Greek colonels, will be in “Z the orgy of power” by Costa Gavras (1969), again with Cacoyannis ne “The Trojans” (he directed it six times), with Francesco Rosi (“Christ stopped at Eboli”), Terence Young (“Bloodline”), up to the spectacular cameo of “All in one night” (John Landis, 1985) in which she played a ruthless Iranian gang leader. In great demand in the theater, passionate about music (three discs with Vangelis and Aphrodite’s Child), ambassador of Greek culture in the world, Irene Papas sees her star decline since the 80s. She chooses the theater more often (also in Italy with Mauro Bolognini), she presides over the jury of Venice in 1987, she returns fleetingly with an American production (“Captain Corelli’s mandolin” by John Madden (2001), he chooses Manoel de Oliveira as his high school graduate, for whom he will act in “Party “, “Restlessness” And “A spoken film” which is in fact his farewell step in 2003. The following year, having signed a‘”Hecuba” for four-handed cinema with Giuliana Berlinguer announces her retirement and takes refuge in her homeland where since 2013 she began to be threatened by Alzheimer’s, which at the age of 96 turns her off permanently.
50 years of career are not enough to describe his legend because every time he brought to the stage an unmistakable charisma in which the Mediterranean spirit of Mother Earth shone in its millennial charm. She was a lonely woman (she always declared that her only, true love of hers, was Marlon Brando with whom she had a brief flirtation in the 60s). She was a great woman, independent and strong-willed; she was a legend and the true face of Greece yesterday and today.
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