In one telling little scene in Pote tin Kyriaki, Greek prostitute Ilia (Melina Mercouri) tells earnest American Grecophile Homer Thrace (Jules Dassin, who also wrote and directed the film) that she is very, very fond of Greek tragedies. In fact, the next performance she’s eager to watch—of Medea—will be the fifteenth time she’ll be watching that particular play. Thrace is surprised, but impressed, too.
… until Ilia, on being invited by her innumerable male friends to tell them the story of Medea, launches forth on a version so garbled and wildly inaccurate that Thrace is left shocked. Not to worry, says a mutual friend, the Captain (Mitsos Ligizos). Ilia likes to be happy; so her interpretation of Medea is tailored to be a happy story, with everybody living happily ever after and going off to the seashore (which is Ilia’s concept of being happy).
Of the cinema personalities who have passed on recently and to whom I’ve posted tributes on this blog, nearly all have been people I’ve watched in at least a few films each. People (like Eleanor Parker, who for years I knew only as the Baroness from The Sound of Music) whom I may not initially have been utterly enamoured of, but whom I’ve grown to like and admire after having watched them in numerous roles. Joan Fontaine, Peter O’Toole, Suchitra Sen…
The Austrian-born Maximilian Schell (December 8, 1930-February 1, 2014) is the exception, because this is one actor whom I’ve seen—before I watched Topkapi—in only one role: as the earnest young lawyer in Judgment at Nuremberg. Just one performance (an Oscar-winning one), mind you, and that was enough to make me a Max Schell fan. Enough of a fan to mourn his passing.