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Melina Mercouri

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Melina Mercouri (Greek: Μελίνα Μερκούρη, born Maria Amalia Mercouri) (Athens, Greece, October 18, 1920 – New York City, March 6, 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.

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 during the Axis Occupation of Greece during WWII (1941-1944) the president of the Bank of Greece.

Her first lover was a Greek actor surnamed Papas, but she first married, as a teenager, Panos Harokopos. They married during the Second World War, and his wealth helped her to survive the Nazi occupation. She later maintained that although she loved her husband, their marriage was a mistake.

Her first film, the Greek film Stella (1955), was directed by Michael Cacoyannis, the director of Zorba the Greek, and 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. (The couple collaborated on its 1967 musical stage adaptation, Illya Darling, for which she received a Tony Award nomination, as well.

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