Although Melina Mercouri died twenty years ago, on March 6, 1994, her memory remains very much alive in Greek hearts. Mercouri loved her country and was an ambassador of the Greek spirit worldwide. She was a much loved actress and politician who fought for the return of Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
Melina Mercouri was born on October 10, 1920. At the age of 18 she joined the National Theater of Greece where she started her brilliant theatrical career. In 1949, she had her first major success in the theatre playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams and staged by Karolos Koun’s Art Theatre.
Her first movie was the Greek film Stella (1955), directed by Michael Cacoyannis. The film received special praise at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, where she met the American film director Jules Dassin, who later became her husband. She became world-famous when she starred in Never on Sunday (1960), directed by Dassin. For this film, Mercouri received the Best Actress Award at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.
Mercouri fought against the Greek Military Junta and led an international campaign, travelling across the world, to inform the public and contribute to the isolation and fall of the dictators. As a result the dictatorial regime revoked her Greek citizenship. After the fall of the Junta in 1974, she got involved in politics. In 1981, she was appointed Minister of Culture and started her long-lasting struggle for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.
Her memory is honored today, March 6, with an exhibition of rare personal photos, entitled “Melina Mercouri Street”. The exhibition is held by the Benaki Museum in collaboration with the Melina Mercouri Foundation.