Irene Papas, the Greek acting legend revered for her classical performances and turns in several international classics, died on September 14 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
“Magnificent, majestic, dynamic, Irene Papas was the personification of Greek beauty on the cinema screen and on the theater stage, an international leading lady who radiated Greekness,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said via a statement, while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described her as a source of “admiration and inspiration.”
Born September 3, 1929, in Corinth, Greece, she studied acting at the royal drama school of Athens, beginning her career first as a singer and dancer.
Papas began her illustrious film career in 1948, appearing in two films in Greece and then working in Italy on, among others, Theodora, Slave Empress (1954) and Attila (1954).
Papas made a memorable Hollywood debut in Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) opposite Jimmy Cagney (1899-1986), directed by Robert Wise (1914-2005). She was equally mesmerizing in the hit The Guns of Navarone (1961).
She became an icon with her performances in the classics-driven films Antigone (1961), Electra (1962) and The Trojan Women (1971), and continued as a film star in such works as Zorba the Greek (1964), Brotherhood (1968), Z (1969) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).
Papas worked steadily in film internationally, and also appeared on Broadway in Medea (1973) and The Bacchae (1980).
Her film career drew to a close on a high note, via A Talking Picture (2003), after which time she continued acting and directing on the stage, and helping to establish schools of acting in both Rome and Athens.
She was also known for her musical career, releasing several albums of mostly Greek classics. Curiously, she appeared on the 1972 rock song "Infinity" by Aphrodite's Child, chanting, "I was, I am, I am to come." The song was considered a lascivious, pre-"Love to Love You Baby" ode to an orgasm.
One marriage ended in divorce, another in annulment, Papas was survived by her nephew, director, producer, writer and actor Manousos Manousakis, 72.