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Actress Irene Papas (1926-2022)


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Irene Papas, the formidable 5-foot-10-inch Greek actress and singer who appeared in films and on stage and television for more than half a century, died Wednesday -- 11 days after her 96th birthday. The cause of her death has not been revealed, but she is said to have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. 

Her death in Greece was confirmed by the country's ministry of culture in a statement: "Majestic, stately, dynamic, Irene Papas was the personification of Greek beauty on cinema screens and on the stage, an international star who radiated Greekness,” said culture minister Lina Mendoni. "With the power of her talent and the charm of her personality, she conquered the world of cinema and theater."

Papas, born Irene Lelekou in Chiliomodi, a village near Corinth, Greece, attended the Royal School of Dramatic Art in Athens, where she studied dance and singing. She graduated in 1948 and began a career in the Greek theater. She was discovered in Greece by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Elia Kazan, and she began appearing in films in 1948. 

From 1947 to 1951, she was married to the the film director Alkis Papas. Three years after the divorce, she became involved with the actor Marlon Brando. In 1957, she married the film producer José Kohn, but the marriage was annulled. 

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Papas co-starred with James Cagney in the 1958 screen Western "Tribute to a Bad Man," which was directed by Robert Wise. She appeared as Jocasta Constantine, the mistress of the title character -- a powerful Wyoming rancher played by Cagney. 

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Papas was one of the international stars of "The Guns of Navarone" (1961), the great World War II action film based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. Directed by J. Lee Thompson ("Cape Fear"), the drama also starred Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Sir Stanley Baker, Sir Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Peter Grant,  Gia Scala, James Robertson Justice (also the opening narrator), Richard Harris, Bryan Forbes and Walter Gotell. The film received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won for its special effects by Bill Warrington and Chris Greenham. The fictional story revolved around the exploits of a special group of Allied commandos. Led by Major Franklin (Quayle), a British commander, the group's assignment was to knock out two well-protected radar-controlled guns on the Aegean island of Navarone. Germans used the large weapons, stationed in an impregnable fortress, to keep Allied naval ships at bay. Papas would co-star with Quinn in several other films.

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The 1964 mystery  film "The Moon-Spinners" -- Hayley Mills' penultimate Walt Disney film -- featured Papas as the owner of a hotel in Crete and mother of a teen son (Michael Davis). Mills played Nikky Ferris, who rented a room at the inn with her  aunt (Joan Greenwood) and became involved in intrigue with a fellow Brit (Peter McEnery). Directed by James Neilson ("Summer Magic," "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh"), the drama also starred Eli Wallach and Pola Negri (in her final film appearance).

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Papas attained international stardom with her performance in "Zorba the Greek, the 1964 drama -- also set on the island of Crete --that provided the two-time Oscar winner Quinn with his favorite screen role. She co-starred as "The Widow," a desirable woman  who suffered a tragic fate. Directed by Michael Cacoyannis ("The Day the Fish Came Out," "The Trojan Women"), the film was based on the 1952 novel by Nikos Kazantzakes. The film won three Oscars: Best Supporting Actress (Lila Kedrova), Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Walter Lassally) and Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration (Vassilis Photopoulosz). Quinn received his second Best Actor nomination for his performance. Cacoyannis (real name: Mihalis Kakogiannis) was nominated for three awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

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Four years before "The Godfather" was released, Papas played the wife of longtime Mafia figure Frank Ginetta (Kirk Douglas) in "The Brotherhood," which was directed by Martin Ritt and written by Lewis John Carlino. Alex Cord co-starred as Ginetta's younger brother Vince, an Army veteran who became a rising star -- and rival to Frank -- within the Organization.  The drama, which also featured Luther Adler, Susan Strasberg, Murray Hamilton and Eduardo Ciannelli,, was not a box-office hit for Paramount. Good thing the studio greenlit the 1972 mob film.


In 1969's "Z," Costa-Gavras' riveting Algerian-French thriller about political turmoil in a European country (read: early 1960s' Greece), Papas starred as Hélène -- the widow of a slain political figure (Yves Montand). The film examined their relationship in flashbacks and focused on Hélène's attempt to pick up the pieces. The fast-paced drama, which also starred Jean-Louis Trintignant as a government investigator, won the Academy Award as the Best Foreign-Language Film of 1969. It also became one of the first foreign-language films to be nominated for Best Picture.

Z (1969) | Alex on Film

The 1969 historical drama "Anne of the Thousand Days" -- directed by Charles Jarrott -- featured Papas as Catharine of Aragon, the  first wife of England's early 16th-century monarch Henry VIII (Richard Burton). The Spanish-born queen previously had been married to Henry's late older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales. Catharine's inability to provide a male heir prompts the Tudor king to seek an annulment so that he can wed the fetching courtier Anne Boleyn (Geneviève Bujold). Catharine's refusal to be cast aside led to a showdown with the Catholic Church in the 1530s, the creation of the Church of England and Henry's marriage to Anne. Based on Maxwell Anderson's 1948 play, the film received 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor (Burton). Best Actress (Bujold), Best Supporting Actor (Sir Anthony Quayle) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Bridget Boland, John Hale and Richard Sokolove). It won for its costume design by Margaret Furse.

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Papas reteamed with "Zorba the Greek" director Cacoyannis for the 1971 drama "The Trojan Women," set during the aftermath of the decade-long war between the Greeks and the Trojans. Papas portrayed Helen of Troy in the film that also starred Katharine Hepburn as Hecuba, Dame Vanessa Redgrave as Andromache and Geneviève Bujold as Cassandra. For her performance in the film, Papas received Best Actress honors from the National Board of Review. The screen project was adapted by Cacoyannis from Edith Hamilton's translation of the 415 B.C. tragedy by the Greek playwright Euripedes.

demonic entity — Irene Papas as Helen of Troy in The Trojan Women...

John Landis' offbeat 1985 comedy/drama "Into the Night" starred Jeff Goldblum as an insomniac aerospace engineer who literally ran into a mysterious woman (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) at the L.A. airport. She turned out to be a jewel smuggler trying to elude the henchmen of the Iranian expatriate Shaheen Parvici (Papas), one of many characters seeking to recover the stolen jewels. The film featured cameo appearances by several directors and celebrities, including Roger Vadim, Paul Mazursky (who began as an actor), David Cronenberg and Jonathan Demme. 

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1 hour ago, Hibi said:

A great actress.. I didn't realize she was that old. R.I.P.

If she indeed observed her 96th birthday two weeks ago , then Papas was almost five months younger than Queen Elizabeth II -- and they died days apart. They were photographed together in April 1961 at  the London premiere of "The Guns of Navarone."

May be an image of 3 people and people standing


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