The great actress Irini Pappa has died


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In her career, she tackled important female roles of theater and cinema, fully embodying the power of ancient tragedy.

The last of the great actresses, the great Greek actress, has passed away at the age of 96. Irini Papa. He was one of the few Greek actors who excelled abroad. The great Greek actress lived her last years in Chiliomodi in Corinth (the village where she grew up), facing health problems. Irini Pappa leaves us a great legacy with her interpretations.

Simple, archaic, Doric figure, symbol of Greek beauty, famous representative of Mediterranean culture abroad, charismatic and dynamic woman, Irini Papa became internationally known for her acting skills and her spirit. In her career, she tackled important female roles in theater and cinema, fully embodying the power of ancient tragedy.

Irini Papa had taken part in more than 80 films, with filming all over the world (Chinatown, Hollywood, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Morocco, Brazil, Australia, Portugal, etc.) with her co-stars, among others, Marlon Brando, Yves Montand, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Richard Burton, Gian Maria Volode, James Cagney. In addition to the successful adaptations of tragedies, her best-known films are the unforgettable Hollywood blockbuster “The Cannons of Navarone”, where she plays the role of fighter Maria Papademou (1961) and “Alexis Zorbas”, who plays the role of the Widow (1964).

He was born on September 3, 1926 in Chiliomodi, Corinth as Irini Lelekou. She was born into a family of teachers, such as her grandfather, her parents and her aunt who influenced her in her education. Her mother Eleni Lelekou, from the family of Prevezanou, was a teacher, from whom she had heard many fairy tales and stories. Her father Stavros Lelekos was a professor of classical drama, he was the director of the Sofikos school in Corinth and he taught her to read ancient Greeks. Her parents had four girls. Her great-grandfather Stavros Lelekos, around the end of the 19th century, wrote the first textbook of the Greek language (1881), as well as other books for secondary education. Her parents objected when she told them as a teenager that she wanted to be an actress.

Her nephew is the director and screenwriter Manousos Manousakis, son of Despina’s sister. Also her nephew is the actor Ayantas Manthopoulos, son of Evangelia’s sister.

In 1947 she married the director and actor Alkis Pappa (1922-2018), with whom they divorced in 1951, but she kept his last name. She herself preferred to write the last name with a “p”, i.e. “Papa” (as in English “Irene Papas”). According to other information their marriage lasted from 1943 to 1947.

In her final year at the school, Alekos Sakellarios saw her perform in Macbeth. He himself asked her to go to the inspection. And even though it was diametrically opposed to her and her classical education, she said yes. Her debut in the cinema takes place in 1948 in the film “Lost Angels” directed by Nikos Tsiforou. In 1951 comes “Dead State”, by Frixos Iliadis, with Giorgos Foundas as a co-star. The film participates in the Cannes Film Festival and everyone is speechless, they recognize this new face as possessing a uniqueness.

In 1972 he appeared alongside the later Oscar-winning Greek composer Vangelis Papathanasiou. He convinces her to try her singing talent. Irini Papa records with him “666”, the last album of the music group “Aphrodite’s Child”, with references to the “Apocalypse of John” and a lyrical contribution by director Kostas Ferris. Two more collaborations with Vangelis Papathanasiou follow: “Odes” with Greek folk songs arranged by Vangelis and “Rhapsodies” with hymns of Holy Week.

She had disclosed in 2004 to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, after his death Marlon Brando, that there was a long and “secret love” between them. She had said that they had met in 1954 in Rome. As she said she appreciated him very much, he was the “great passion of her life” and they met for the last time in 1999 in Athens.

Irini Papa’s contribution to art has been recognized many times both inside and outside of Greece, through the countless awards she has received from time to time.