Melina Mercouri (Greek: Μελίνα Μερκούρη, born as Maria Amalia Mercouri, Μαρία Αμαλία; 18 October 1920 – 6 March 1994), was a Greek actress, singer and politician.
As an actress she made her film debut in Stella (1955) and met international success with her performances in Never on Sunday, Phaedra, Topkapi, and Promise at Dawn. She won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, and she was also nominated for an Academy Award, a Tony Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and two BAFTA Awards.
A political activist during the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, she became a member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1977 and the first female Minister for Culture of Greece in 1981. Mercouri was the person who, in 1983, conceived and proposed the programme of the European Capital of Culture, which has been established by the European Union since 1985.
She was a strong advocate for the return to Athens of the Parthenon Marbles, which were removed from the Parthenon, and are now displayed in the British Museum.
Never on Sunday film
Never on Sunday (Greek: Ποτέ Την Κυριακή, Pote Tin Kyriaki) is a 1960 Greek black-and-white film which tells the story of Ilya, a self-employed, free-spirited prostitute who lives in the port of Piraeus in Greece, and Homer, an American tourist from Middletown, Connecticut — a classical scholar enamored with all things Greek. Homer feels Ilya's life style typifies the degradation of Greek classical culture and attempts to steer her onto the path of morality. It constitutes a variation of the Pygmalion story.
The film stars Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin, and it gently submerges the viewer into Greek culture, including dance, music, and language (through the use of subtitles). The signature song and the bouzouki theme of the movie became hits of the 1960s and brought the composer, Manos Hadjidakis, an Academy Award.
It won the Academy Award for Best Song (Manos Hadjidakis for "Never on Sunday"). It was nominated for the Academy Awards for, respectively, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Melina Mercouri), Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Best Director (Jules Dassin) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay as Written Directly for the Screen (Dassin). Mercouri won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.
Never on Sunday song
"Never on Sunday", also known as "Ta Paidiá tou Peiraiá" (Greek: "Τα Παιδιά του Πειραιά"; English: "The Children of Piraeus"), is a popular song by Manos Hadjidakis. A vocal version was also released and performed by Melina Mercouri in the film of same name directed by Jules Dassin and starring Mercouri. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1960, a first for a foreign-language picture. The film score to the movie was first released on October 1, 1960 by United Artists Records. The song has since been covered by numerous artists, and has gained various degrees of success throughout the world.
"Never on Sunday" was written by Manos Hadjidakis originally in Greek with the title "Ta Paidia tou Peiraia" (The children of Piraeus). The original Greek version featured lyrics also written by Hadjidakis, and was performed in the film by Melina Mercouri. The original Greek lyrics (along with the foreign translations in German, French and Italian) tell the story of the main female character of the film, Illya (Mercouri). Illya is a jolly woman who enjoys life, the town and the people of her native Piraeus. Although she earns her money as a prostitute, she longs to meet a man someday who is just as full of joie de vivre as she is herself.
In 1960, the song was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, a first for a foreign-language picture since the Academy began to recognize achievements in this category in 1934.