Never on a Sunday (Pote tin Kyriaki)
(Greek • 1960 • 97 minutes • b&w • 16mm, in English and Greek with subtitles)
Perhaps the most amiable serpent ever to glide onto the screen and attempt to entice an innocent woman away from a life of heroic sin is presented to us by Jules Dassin, with himself in the serpent’s role, in his new picture, NEVER ON SUNDAY, which came to the Plaza yesterday. From the moment he enters smiling into a Piraeus (Greece) cafe and proclaims to a mob of happy Greek boozers that he is an American tourist in search of the Truth, he makes a most genial companion. One almost wishes for his sake, that he could accomplish the purpose he embarks on, which is the moral reformation of a prostitute.
. . . It is the bouncing and beaming expansiveness with which Miss Mercouri endows this woman and the patience with which Mr. Dassin tries to urge her to simmer down, to assume a little moral decorum and abandon some of her nonintellectual and professional whims, that make for tremendous good humor in the often lusty episodes of this film. There are plenty of expansive Greek gentlemen to help make them droll and lusty, too.
In addition to Miss Mercouri and Mr. Dassin, both of whom are superb—she in a flashy, forceful fashion and he in a Chaplinesque vein—there is Georges Foundas, who plays a cheerful, hot-blooded Italian-Grecian swain, and Titos Vandis, who is delightful as a dull-witted champion of the girl. Mitsos Liguisos is sly and mellow as a seaport amoralist, and Dimos Starrenios is blonde and billowy as an antagonistic prostitute.
— Bosley Crowther, The New York Times,October 19, 1960
The following two excerpts are taken from the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers:
From the entry, "Melina Mercouri"
"To be born Greek," Melina Mercouri has written, "is to be magnificently cursed." The statement is wholly in character; like her acting, it is unashamedly larger than life, and its bearing on literal truth is beside the point. As an actress, Mercouri is a phenomenon, and objecting that she overacts is like pointing out that the Parthenon would make an uncomfortable living-room.
With NEVER ON SUNDAY, Mercouri burst upon the undefended world. It was her third film with Dassin, though their first in Greece. Suggestions that she lured Dassin into pretension [in other collaborative productions] may be unjustified, since his flatulent [earlier 1957] Kazantzakis adaptation HE WHO MUST DIE was well into preparation before she was cast as the Magdalen figure. Nothing pretentious about NEVER ON SUNDAY, though—it was glorious hokum, frank and unabashed, and Mercouri as the tart with a heart was loud, brash and irresistible. Made for $150,000 (and looking it), it took in $1.5 million worldwide.
From the entry, "Jules Dassin"
Between the mid-1940s and the late 1950s, [American-born] Jules Dassin directed some of the better realistic, hard-bitten, fast-paced dramas produced in America, before his blacklisting, and Europe . . . Dassin’s films are occasionally innovative: THE NAKED CITY is one of the first police dramas shot on location, on the streets of New York; RIFIFI is a forerunner of detailed jewelry heist dramas, highlighted by a 35-minute sequence chronicling the break-in, shot without a word of dialogue or note of music; NEVER ON SUNDAY, starring his wife Melina Mercouri as a happy hooker, made the actress an international star, won her an Academy Award nomination and popularized Mediterranean bouzouki music in America. THE NAKED CITY and RIFIFI are particularly exciting, as well as trend-setting, while BRUTE FORCE remains a striking, naturalistic prison drama, with Burt Lancaster in one of his most memorable early performances and Hume Cronyn wonderfully despicable as a Hitlerish guard captain. THIEVES’ HIGHWAY, also shot on location, is a vivid drama of truck driver Richard Conte taking on racketeer Lee J. Cobb. TOPKAPI is a RIFIFI remake, with a delightful touch of comedy.
. . . The villain in [Dassins] career is the blacklist, which tragically clipped his wings just as he was starting to fly. Indeed, he could not find work in Europe for five years, as producers felt American distributors would automatically ban any film with his signature.... In 1958, it had been announced that he was planning to adapt James T. Farrell’s STUDS LONIGAN, a project that was eventually shelved. It is one more tragedy of the blacklist that Dassin was not allowed to follow up [his other achievements] with STUDS LONIGAN.
. . . The New York Herald Tribune reported in 1961 that at one [European film awards] ceremony, when the award to RIFIFI was announced, Dassin was called to the dais, and a French flag was raised above him. "It should have been a moment of triumph," said Dassin, "but I felt awful. They were honoring my work and I’m an American. It should have been the American flag raised in honor. . . . "
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