Never on Sunday (1960): Jules Dassin (Post-Blacklist) Directs Star Melina Mercouri in Oscar Nominated Performance

The comedy Never on Sunday, produced, written, and directed by Jules Dassin, who also starred in it with his wife-actress Melina Mercouri, would not have been nominated in major categories (Director, Best Actress) had it not been a commercial hit.

A kind of contemporary “Pygmalion,” the movie, a culture-collision comedy with all the cliches of the genre, focuses on the tempestuous relationship between a “serious”  and humorless American writer (Jules Dassin) and a joyous Greek prostitute with a heart of gold, who makes her own interpretation of Greek tragedies like “Oedipus.”

Melina Mercouri dominates every frame she is in, and she delivers her son, including the titular one, with such abandon that they become contagious joy, making you want to visit Athens and the Greek Islands.

“Never on Sunday” won one Oscar, Best Song (written by Manos Hadjidakis), thus becoming the first song in a foreign-language picture to win an Oscar since the Academy began to recognize achievements in this category in 1934.

The movie and its melodic score are credited with stimulating American and Western tourism trade to Greece.

“Never on Sunday” also put its star, Melina Mercouri, on the international map, and she subsequently appeared in such commercial films as the heist thriller “Topkapi” and others.

Actor Alert

A prominent Greek stage and screen actress, Melina Mercouri won the Acting Award at the Cannes Film Festival before receiving a Best Actress Oscar nomination (see below).

She was married to director Jules Dassin, who had been blacklisted and living in Europe in exile,  and appeared in a number of his films, including “Phaedra.”  Next to “Never on Sunday,” her most popular film was “Topkapi.”

Politics Alert

Jules Dassin was blacklisted in 1950, during the McCarthy political witch-hunting, after he was cited as a communist in a testimony gioven by his colleague, Edward Dmytryk. Prior to that, he enjoyed an extremely promising career with such noir crimers as “Brute Force” and “The Naked City.”

Merocuri herself was also politically exiled in 1967, when the military took over the government.  In 1974, she quit acting, when she ran successfully for the Greek Parliament; she died in 1994.

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 5

Director: Jules Dassin
Story and Screenplay (Original): Jules Dassin
Actress: Melina Mercouri
Song: Never on Sunday, music and lyrics by Manos Hadjidakis
Costume Design (b/w): Deni Vachlioti

Oscar Award: 1