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Μελίνα Μερκούρη

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Μελίνα Μερκούρη {Melina Mercouri} (1920-1994) was an Academy Award-nominated Greek actress, singer, and political activist. She was a member of the Hellenic Parliament, and in 1981 she became the first female Minister for Culture in Greece.

She was born Maria Amalia Mercouri in Athens on 18th October 1920. The most important person in her early life was her grandfather Spyros Merkouris, who was mayor of Athens for many decades. Her father was a member of Parliament. The marriage of her parents ended when she was a youngster and she lived with her mother. Her uncle was George S. Mercouris, the leader of the Greek National Socialist Party who became Chairman of the Bank of Greece during the Axis Occupation of Greece during WWII (1941-1944). Her first lover was actor George Papas, but she married Panagis Harokopos, a wealthy landowner. They married during the Second World War and her husband’s wealth helped them survive the harsh times of Nazi occupation.

Her first film, the Greek language film Stella (1955), was directed by Michael Cacoyannis, the director of Zorba the Greek. It brought her to Cannes, where it was nominated for the Golden Palm. It did not win the prize, but she met there the man of her life, director Jules Dassin. Dassin and Mercouri lived together for the rest of her life. They had no children. Melina became well-known to international audiences when she starred in the 1960 film Never on Sunday, directed by Jules Dassin.

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