It’s apposite that Irene Papas, who has died aged 96, was at her peak when taking part in the heroines in movie variations of classical Greek tragedies. However her many roles in a variety of Hollywood, worldwide and Greek movies, together with The Weapons of Navarone (1961), Zorba the Greek (1964) and Z (1969), Papas at all times appeared that there was an Electra, Antigone or Clytemnestra effervescent beneath the floor.
She balanced expertly between theatrical custom and the cinema closeup, her sturdy, expressive face being particularly eloquent in moments of silent struggling.
All of the movies of the Euripides trilogy – Electra (1962), The Trojan Ladies (1971) and Iphigenia (1976) – directed by Michael Cacoyannis, have been dominated by Papas’s dramatic magnificence in closeup in opposition to lifelike Greek landscapes, and proved that the traditional myths may grip fashionable audiences. It was Cacoyannis, with whom Papas made six movies, together with Zorba the Greek, who introduced out her expertise in full.
The daughter of academics, she was born Eirini Lelekou in a village close to Corinth, and attended the royal drama college in Athens. She began her profession in her teenagers as a singer and dancer in selection exhibits earlier than launching her movie profession in 1948, by which period she had married the director Alkis Papas.
After two minor movies in Greece, she signed a contract in Italy, the place she was underused. Amongst them have been two sword and sandals epics, Theodora, Slave Empress (1954) and Attila (1954), through which she performed second fiddle – within the first to Gianna Maria Canale, and within the second to Sophia Loren with Anthony Quinn within the title function. Papas would co-star with Quinn in a number of movies, through which they have been a flamable duo.
She made a formidable Hollywood debut because the lover of a ruthless cattle baron (James Cagney) within the Robert Clever western Tribute to a Unhealthy Man (1956). This was the feminine lead function and he or she consolidated her star standing because the valiant resistance chief within the struggle journey The Weapons of Navarone.
In the identical 12 months, 1961, Papas took on her first Greek tragedian function in Antigone. Directed by George Tzavellas in such a option to make Sophocles’s poetic parable come throughout with lucidity, it allowed Papas because the intractable heroine to reveal her elegiac energy.
Papas as Electra, in her first movie with Cacoyannis, prompted the critic Dilys Powell to exclaim: “I had by no means thought to see the face of the nice Apollo from the Olympia pediment reside and transfer. Now I’ve seen it.” Roger Ebert, trying again on the Oscar-nominated movie 10 years later, mentioned: “The funereal figures of the Greek refrain – poor peasant girls scattered on a hillside – nonetheless weep behind Electra, and I can always remember her lament for her lifeless mom. I believed then, and I nonetheless assume, that Irene Papas is essentially the most classically stunning girl ever to look in movies.”
The Trojan Ladies misplaced the ability, poetry and fantastic thing about the traditional Greek language by being in English, however the multinational forged of Katharine Hepburn (Hecuba), Vanessa Redgrave (Andromache), Geneviève Bujold (Cassandra) and Papas as a seductive Helen of Troy, compensated considerably. The Oscar-nominated Iphigenia (primarily based on Cacoyannis’s stage manufacturing of Iphigenia at Aulis), the final of his Euripides trilogy, had Papas, by now in her 50s, giving a forceful efficiency as Clytemnestra.
Between the primary and second Euripidean movies, Papas performed the lonely widow in Zorba the Greek who, after making like to an English author (Alan Bates), is stoned by the Cretan villagers. The character has little dialogue, however Papas’s face and physique language are eloquent sufficient.
Papas went on to play different widows, notably in two political thrillers, Elio Petri’s We Nonetheless Kill the Previous Means (1967) and Costa-Gavras’s Z. The latter clearly pointed the finger on the colonels’ totalitarian regime in Greece, which Papas – who lived in exile in Italy from 1967 to 1974 – referred to as “the fourth Reich”.
In 1968, among the many first work Papas undertook in Italy was the mafia drama The Brotherhood, reverse Kirk Douglas, and the tv miniseries The Odyssey, through which she performed Penelope. She had now turn into a travelling participant, taking part in Spaniards akin to Catherine of Aragon in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) or Italians such because the lusty housekeeper in Francesco Rosi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli (1979). Within the Nineteen Seventies and 80s, Papas made a median of two movies a 12 months, lots of them unworthy of her abilities.
Fortunately, she had the possibility to shine on Broadway in two performs by Euripides, within the title function of Medea (1973) and as Agave in The Bacchae (1980), the latter directed by Cacoyannis. Of her Medea, the New York Occasions critic wrote: “Irene Papas, who has typically performed aggrieved and grieving girls, brings to the function a managed depth, an innate intelligence, and an implacably cussed anger.”
In movies, she started to get supporting roles, bringing hearth and authenticity as moms and grandmothers as in Rosi’s Chronicle of a Loss of life Foretold (1987) and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001) earlier than making an excellent exit from cinema in Manoel de Oliveira’s multilingual A Speaking Image (2003).
At one level within the movie, on board a cruise ship within the Mediterranean, Papas retains the passengers spellbound by singing a Greek people track. Her stunning contralto voice can be heard on discs of songs by Vangelis and Mikis Theodorakis.
After leaving the cinema, Papas appeared in Euripides’ Hecuba on stage in Rome in 2003, and directed Antigone on the Greek theatre in Syracuse in 2005. She additionally devoted herself to the institution of faculties of appearing in Rome and Athens.
Papas’s first marriage led to divorce in 1951, and her second marriage, to José Kohn, in 1957, was annulled.
Irene Papas, actor, born 3 September 1926; died 14 September 2022