Famous and much-loved Greek actress Melina Mercouri was born on October 18th 1920, in Athens, Greece. She was named Maria and given the sweet nickname Melina (honey) by her grandfather, which she used throughout her acting career.
Known to the world for her stunning smile and award-winning performances on Broadway and the silver screen, Melina Mercouri was also known to Greeks as a champion of the proletariat who cared deeply about Greek art and its classical roots.
Her first big success in the theatre was the role of Blanche Dubois in Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”, staged by Karolos Koun’s Art Theatre in 1949. During 1949 – 1950, she worked with the Art Theatre in plays by Aldus Huxley, Arthur Miller, Philip Jordan, and Andre Roussin.
She then appeared in Paris in boulevard plays by Jacques Deval and Marcel Achard, with whom she had a very good collaboration. While in Paris she met Jean Cocteau, Jean-Paul Sartre, Colette, Francoise Sagan. She was fascinated, and her metamorphosis began.
In 1953 she received the Marika Kotopouli prize. After 1955 she returned to Greece and starred at the Kotopouli-Rex theatre in many of the plays of the classical repertoire, like Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and Anouilh’s “L’Alouette”. In the ’50s, she joins the theatre actor’s trade union movement.
Melina Mercouri was able to combine the magic of the performing arts with the realism of politics. She was very actively involved in many aspects of social and political life, first during the struggle against the dictatorship and later, in 1977, as a Member of Parliament and, finally, from 1981 to 1989 and from 1993 until she died as Minister of Culture.
As the first female Minister of Culture, Mercouri poured her considerable energies into building libraries, preserving Greek archaeological sites and establishing the European Capital of Culture, a designation that highlights shared cultural heritage in a new European city every year.
According to many, she was a woman whose magnetism and exuberance were matched only by her love of Greece.
The ‘Never on Sunday’ star had also been nominated for multiple Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and BAFTA Awards and died on March 6, 1994, in New York.