Film director Dassin dies in Athens aged 96

Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:53pm EDT
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By George Hatzidakis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Jules Dassin, the American who directed the film "Never on Sunday" and was married to the late Greek actress and culture minister Melina Mercouri, died in an Athens hospital after a short illness on Monday aged 96.

"Greece grieves the loss of a rare human being, an important creator and a true friend," Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement. "His passion, energy, fighting spirit and nobility will never be forgotten."

Blacklisted in the United States in the 1950s, he fled to Europe, where he met the young, larger-than-life Greek actress at the Cannes film festival and never looked back.

"I was Greek even before I knew it," Dassin was quoted as saying by Greek state TV.

Born in Connecticut on December 18 1911, Dassin began working as an actor and theater producer before becoming assistant to film director Alfred Hitchcock in 1940.

He was hailed as a bright talent with his first films in the 1940s but his career froze in 1952, when he was named in testimony to the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) as a member of Hollywood's "communist faction."

Blacklisted and unemployable in Hollywood, he moved to France where he supported himself by writing.

His biggest success was the 1960 film "Never on Sunday," starring Mercouri, which he wrote and directed. It won an Oscar in 1961 for best original song and Dassin received Oscar nominations for best director and best writing, story and screenplay.   Continued...