Legends never die

It has been 30 years since the death of Melina Mercouri, a Greek actress, singer, activist, and politician.

Her first major role, at the age of 20, was Lavinia in Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Mourning Becomes Electra’. Her most memorable parts were Blanche in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and the good-hearted prostitute in the film ‘Never on Sunday’ (1960). During her international artistic career, she received an Academy Award nomination and won a Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award, for her performance in the film ‘Never on Sunday’.

Melina came from a politically prominent family. She was abroad when the military coup of 1967 occurred. She dedicated herself to stimulating opposition against the junta in Europe and the United States and became a symbolic figure to the extent that she was deprived of her Greek citizenship by the colonels’ regime.

After the collapse of the dictatorship in 1974, she returned to Greece having joined in exile the precursor of Andreas Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) which she helped to consolidate its beyond-the-borders appeal. Her contacts with French political elites, especially with the political circle of François Mitterand were instrumental for the role PASOK claimed in European affairs in the Eighties: the EU cultural policy owes much to her initiatives. One of her major achievements was the establishment of the European Capitals of Culture, with Athens chosen as the first capital in 1985. During her political career she sewed as the longest-lived Minister of Culture in Greece. Melina’s political activism included her tenacious campaign for the return of the Parthenon sculptures kept at the British Museum The Acropolis Museum, constructed at a distance of 300 metres from the monuments, hosts the major parts of the Parthenon Sculptures, hoping their re-unification will occur soon: such was the last wish of Melina Mercouri.

Melina succeeded to become a legend, in the national political scene and in the international activist and artistic scene. Focusing on the latter, the book “Melina: Sunday forever” by George Pilichos, presents the 19 movies in which Mercouri starred or participated, through texts, posters and photographs. The book is dedicated to her husband, the French-born American film director Jules Dassin, who directed most of her films. He also contributed the introductory note. Other contributors are Jack Lang (former minister of Culture, government spokesman and minister of education in France), Spiros Mercouris (Melina’s brother), Angelos Delivorias (director of Benaki Museum), Kostas Georgousopoulos (art critic), Deni Vahlioti (costume designer) and Babis Aktsoglou (film critic).