Melina Mercouri: Greek actress and political activist


By Georgene Dilernia

Melina Mercouri is one of the greatest female figures in Greece from the 20th century. Known for her vibrant and vivid personality, Mercouri achieved many feats during her time in film, theatre and politics, gaining international fame from all the work she had completed.

Personal Life:

Maria-Amalia (Melina) Mercouri was born in Athens on October 18, 1920, to a prominent political family. She was the daughter of Eirlin Lappa, who came from a wealthy family, and the politician, Stamatis Mercouri (1895-1967).

Mercouri during her acting career career. Photo:

After completing her secondary education, she attended the National Theatre’s Drama School of Greece, graduating in 1944.

In 1939, Mercouri married Panos Harokopos and got divorced in 1962. Then in 1966, she married Jules Dassin, and stayed with him until her death.

Acting career:

Her first major role, at the age of 20, was Lavina in Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra, but perhaps her most memorable parts were Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire and the good-hearted prostitute in film Never on Sunday (1960).

After her first major international success, Mercouri went on to star in Phaedra (1962), for which she was nominated again for the BAFTA Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Drama.

The recognition of her acting talent did not stop though, as her role in Topkapi (1964) granted for another nomination, this time for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture in Musical or Comedy.

Mercouri’s last performance on stage was in the opera Pylades at the Athens Concert Hall in 1992, portraying Clytemnestra.

Political career:

Mercouri’s political involvement began when she voiced against the Greek junta and started an international campaign, travelling around the world to inform the public and contribute to the isolation and fall of the colonels.

As a result, the dictatorial regime revoked her Greek citizenship and confiscated her property.

Mercouri during her political career. Photo:

After the fall of Junta, she was one of the founding members of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), a centre-left political party.

She was continuously elected Member of Parliament from 1977 until her death in 1994. She served as Minister of Culture and championed proudly for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

READ MORE: On This Day: Melina Mercouri calls for the Parthenon Marbles to be returned to Greece.




By subscribing you accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.


Latest News

Greek community urges action to make St Vasilios hall in Brunswick accessible to all

Parishioners at St Vasilios Church in Brunswick West want to install a lift to make the church's community hall more accessible.

Ava Caryofyllis nominated for Logie for ‘Most Popular New Talent’

Young actress Ava Caryofyllis has been nominated for a Logie award in the Most Popular New Talent category.

Greece’s Ambassador visits offices of the Greek Orthodox Community of SA

The Ambassador of Greece to Australia, Stavros Venizelos, visited the offices of the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia on Saturday.

Chris Ikonomidis signs with Macarthur FC

Macarthur FC have signed Socceroos winger Chris Ikonomidis on a two-year contract set to run until the end of the 2025-26 A-League season.

Andrew Mesourouni resigns from South Melbourne FC board

South Melbourne FC has announced the resignation of Andrew Mesourouni from the Board and his role as a Director of the club.

You May Also Like

The migrant story still lives on in fourth-generation Greek-Australians

The Greek Studies Department at Macquarie University is a melting pot of different students with some type of connection to the Greek language, or...

Proposal to change SA street to ‘Hellenic Avenue’ rejected after community backlash

“It is evident our proposal is not well-received by many residents within this area,” Rector Patsouris said.

One year on from first reported COVID-19 case in Greece

It's been an extremely rocky 365 days for citizens of the world, but for Greece, today marks one year since the first reported case...