With Greece being the birthplace of drama and theater, it comes as no surprise that Greek cinema has a long history. Its roots take us back to the early 20th century. But what comes first to mind when thinking of Greek cinema and Greek films, is the “golden age” of the 1950s and 1960s. In Greek, this era is called «ασπρόμαυρος κινηματογράφος» (black-and-white cinema) or «παλιός καλός κινηματογράφος» (good old cinema).
History of Greek Cinema | Cinematography in Greece
Cinematography in Greece started in 1914 with the film “Golfo” (Γκόλφω). It was written and directed by Konstantinos Bachatoris, who later became the founder of “Athini Films” (Αθήνη Φιλμς), the first Greek film company. “Golfo” was a silent film that could be described as a Cinderella-type story that takes place in the 19th century Greek countryside.
The film was produced again in 1955 by the legendary film company “Finos Film” (Φίνος Φιλμ). This time, it was directed by Orestis Laskos and it gained a lot of popularity. Due to its success, many bucolic-themed movies were filmed at that time.
Between 1914 and Greece’s “golden age cinema”, many more films were produced. Some notable mentions are “Daphnis and Chloe” (Δάφνις και Χλόη) from 1931, which was the first film to ever depict a nude scene in Europe, and “The Shepherdess’s Lover” (Ο Αγαπητικός της Βοσκοπούλας) from 1932.
The best years for Greek cinematography started in 1942, with the formation of the production company “Finos Films”. It was founded by Filopimin Finos and became the biggest film production company in southeast Europe. But which are some of the best Greek films from that era?
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Best Vintage Greek Movies | Best Greek Films
A notable film from that era is definitely “The Counterfeit Coin” (Η Κάλπικη Λίρα) from 1955. Directed by George Tzavellas, this Greek comedy-drama was included in the top-10 Greek films by the Pan-Hellenic Union of Cinema Critics in 2006. The movie follows the journey of a counterfeit coin – from the day it got engraved to the last person who found it on his way. It shows the way it influenced each person’s life, revealing the power dynamics of the Greek society at that time. Important Greek actors and actresses such as Dimitris Horn and Ellie Lambeti played in the film. These two had an international career.
The 1962 film Electra, based on the ancient Greek play with the same name, is another important film of that time. It was written, produced, and directed by Michael Cacoyannis and it was nominated for best foreign language film in the 1963 Academy Awards. It has won various awards in numerous film festivals in Mexico, Berlin, France and in other parts of the world.
The Greek movie “Amaxaki” (Το Αμαξάκι) from 1957 was not only a big commercial success but it also represented Greece in the Czech Film Festival.An important Greek actor, Orestis Makris, played a coachman in the picturesque Plaka neighborhood of Athens who sees his life turn upside down once people start using cars.
Some of the biggest commercial successes resulted from the collaboration of the Greek director Alekos Sakellarios with Finos Films. “The Auntie from Chicago” (Η Θεία απ’ το Σικάγο), the “Maiden’s Cheek” (Το ξύλο βγήκε απ’ τον παράδεισο), and the “Hurdy-Gurdy” (Λατέρνα, Φτώχεια, και Φιλότιμο) were very successful in the 1950s’ and Greek tv-channels still add them to their regular program.
Other commercially successful films were “Alice in the Navy” (η Αλίκη στο Ναυτικό), “The Teacher with the Golden Hair” (Η Δασκάλα με τα Ξανθά Μαλλιά), and “The Downfall” (Ο Κατήφορος). These movies featured some of the most well-known Greek actors and actresses of that time, including Zoe Laskari, Jenny Karezi, Mimis Photopoulos, Aliki Vougiouklaki, Dimitris Papamichael, and Georgia Vasileiadou.
Finally, there are many 1950s and 1960s Greeks films that won the hearts of the critics and the viewers were not necessarily produced by a Greek company, such as Finos Films, but were either filmed in Greece and/or featured Greek actors, directors, and script writers. Such examples are the critically acclaimed films “Never on Sunday” (Ποτέ την Κυριακή) by Jules Dassin, featuring Melina Merkouri, and “Zorbas the Greek” (Αλέξης Ζορμπάς) that was produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Greek Actors and Actresses of the Greek Golden Age Cinema
- Ellie Lambeti
- Dimitris Horn
- Katina Paxinou
- Irene Papas
- Melina Merkouri
- Alexis Minotis
- Anna Synodinou
- Petros Fyssoun
- Antigoni Valakou
- Alekos Alexandrakis
- Jenny Karezi
- Aliki Vougiouklaki
- Dinos Iliopoulos
- Thanasis Veggos
- Mimis Fotopoulos
- Kostas Hatzichristos
- Rena Vlachopoulou
- Maro Kontou
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Marialena Perpiraki is a journalist and writer from Athens, Greece. In 2020, she founded Helinika as a cross-media platform.
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