March 31, 2008

Death of Jules Dassin, Long term supporter of the Parthenon Marbles Reunification

Posted at 9:11 pm in Elgin Marbles

More information on the death of Jules Dassin. He had been in poor health for some time, so the death was not entirely unexpected. I tried to meet with him a couple of years ago whilst in Athens, but confusion over the date of the meeting unfortunately prevented this.

From:
The Guardian

Film Director Jules Dassin Dies at 96
* AP foreign
* Monday March 31 2008

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – American director Jules Dassin, whose Greek wife Melina Mercouri starred in his hit movie “Never on Sunday” and six more of his films, died late Monday at an Athens hospital, officials said. He was 96.

The cause of death was not made public. A spokeswoman for Hygeia hospital said only that he had been treated there the past two weeks.

Dassin, whose more than 20 films also included “Topkapi,” abandoned Hollywood during the Communist blacklists in 1950.

In 1955, he won wide acclaim for “Rififi,” famous for its long heist sequence that was free of dialogue. The movie won him the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, where he met Mercouri.

He married the actress-politician in 1966 and settled permanently in Athens.

Dassin directed his wife in seven films, including 1960′s “Never on Sunday,” in which she gained international notice for her portrayal of a kindhearted prostitute.

After Mercouri’s death in 1994, Dassin focused on her main unrealized goal while she was Greece’s culture minister: trying to persuade the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles, a large collection of sculptures taken from the Parthenon by a Scottish diplomat nearly 200 years ago.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced. Dassin had expressed a wish to be buried alongside Mercouri in central Athens’ First Cemetery.

From:
Sydney Morning Herald

Jules Dassin: US cinema prodigy who found refuge in Greece
April 1, 2008 – 7:30AM

Veteran US moviemaker Jules Dassin, who died Monday in Athens at the age of 96, was a film noir master who sought exile in Europe after being named during the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s.

Dassin married the legendary Greek actress Melina Mercouri, joined her campaign for the return of Greece’s lost Parthenon marbles and was eventually awarded honorary Greek citizenship.

Born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1911, Dassin earned a reputation as an innovative director and was one of America’s hottest young filmmakers of the 1940s with films such as “Brute Force” (1947) and “Naked City” (1948).

But as an active Communist who never compromised on his beliefs, he was blacklisted at the height of the witch-hunts on leftists unleashed by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

In 1949 Dassin quit the US for Europe, arriving first in London, where he filmed “Night in the City” (1950) starring US actor Richard Widmark and now considered a landmark of the film noir genre.

Moving on to France, he produced “Rififi” (“Du rififi chez les hommes,” 1955), based on a novel by Auguste le Breton, and best remembered for a now-legendary heist scene.

The 32-minute sequence played without dialogue or music, and the safe-cracking scene was so detailed that Paris police are rumoured to have briefly banned the movie for fear it be too instructive to would-be criminals.

Dassin’s first movie in Greece was “He Who Must Die” (“Celui Qui Doit Mourir” 1957), based on “Christ Recrucified” by the renowned Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis.

But he would soon have cause to return to the country for good.

In 1960, Dassin made “Never on Sunday” a story about an American in Greece trying to save a kind-hearted prostitute.

The film won an Oscar for Best Song for composer Manos Hadjidakis, and is considered one of the finest movies ever made in Greece.

Dassin himself was nominated for Best Director and Best Script, although in the end he never won an Oscar.

More importantly for Dassin however, the film starred Melina Mercouri, one of Greece’s most adored actresses.

Two years after another of his landmark films, another heist movie “Topkapi” (1964), which won Peter Ustinov an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Dassin married Mercouri, who also starred in the film.

Merkouri and Dassin never hid their radical politics.

Both were active in helping organise Greek resistance among expatriate politicians and artists in Paris against the right-wing junta that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974.

After Mercouri retired from film-making she entered politics, rising to become the country’s culture minister in the 1980s.

She made the return of the Parthenon Marbles, taken from Greece in the 19th century and now in the British Museum, a lifelong quest.

Dassin joined her campaign and eventually headed a foundation bearing her name established to secure the marbles’ restitution to Greece.

Mercouri died in 1994. Three years later, the Greek state awarded Dassin honourary citizenship for his efforts in their joint campaign.

In 1978, the Cannes Film Festival awarded him a Golden Palm for “A Dream of Passion,” one of his last films.

In later years, Dassin retained an interest in politics despite advanced age and failing health.

He had two children from his first marriage to violinist Beatrice Launer: Julie and Joe Dassin, a popular singer in 1970s France who died from a heart attack in 1980.

© 2008 AFP

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1 Comment »

  1. Ian said,

    04.01.08 at 3:01 pm

    Well RIP Jules Dassin, You and your movies will be missed!

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