A 1952 portrait of the Greek actress Irene Pappas, taken in Paris. Pappas died on Wednesday at the age of 96.

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International News Photos/AFP via Getty Images

A 1952 portrait of the Greek actress Irene Pappas, taken in Paris. Pappas died on Wednesday at the age of 96.

International News Photos/AFP via Getty Images

Irene Pappas, a Greek actress who became famous worldwide for her roles in films such as Zorba the Greek, Z and Navarone gunsdied on Wednesday at the age of 96. With her striking looks and noted gift for dramatic roles, Pappas was also known for her stage work, particularly in ancient Greek tragedies.

The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports announced her death. U statement published on social networks, the ministry wrote about Pappas: “Majestic, stately, dynamic, she was the embodiment of Greek beauty on the movie screen and on the theater stage, an international star who radiated Greekness.”

Pappas, whose last name is also sometimes transliterated as Pappas, was born Eirini (Irene) Lelekou on September 3, 1926, in the village of Chiliamodi near Corinth, but grew up mostly in Athens. By the time she was a teenager, she began studying drama. In a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Pappas made more than 70 films in her native Greece and abroad.

In the 1970s and 1980s, she appeared in several New York productions of classic plays, as well as a short-lived 1967 Broadway revival Phaedra is called That summer is that autumn.

Pappas built her career in Greece in the 1940s and 50s, and was soon supported by the Greek-American filmmaker Elio Kazan, who talked her into reading for him in 1954. MGM signed her for the following year, although the only resulting film was the 1956 Western Tribute to a bad manwhere James Cagney starred.

In 1961, she starred in a film about World War II Navarone guns, which was partially filmed on the Greek island of Rhodes. It was 1964 Zorba the Greek, however, it did bring her international fame; she played a young widow who is stoned and then killed by her fellow villagers for taking a lover.

Like many other Greek artists and intellectuals, Pappas fled Greece during the right-wing military junta from 1967 to 1974 and lived in exile in Italy and New York.

One of her last roles was in the 2001 World War II film Captain Corelli’s mandolin. In 2018, it was announced that she has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for five years.

Dad had a gift for letting his facial expressions speak for the inner lives of his characters. U Zdirector Costa-Gavros’ Oscar-winning 1969 thriller about the Greek junta, Pappas — who played the widow of a murdered left-wing politician (Yves Monton) — was found unforgettable in her portrayal of his wife’s suffering, even though she uttered few words throughout the film.


Pappas was often paired with Cypriot-born director Michael Kakayanis, who also cast her in Zorba the Greek. Their collaborations included a number of film versions of classic tragedies, such as 1962’s electricity, 1971 year Trojan womenin which she starred alongside Katharine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave, and 1977. Iphigenia.

Along with her screen and stage career, Pappas used her archetypal smoky voice to record as a singer with two of Greece’s musical giants: the late composers Mikis Theodorakis and Vangelis. She was the lead singer on the 1972 song “∞ (Infinity)” by Aphrodite’s Child (co-founded by Vangelis), a project some criticized as being too overtly sexual.

She married film director Alkis Pappas in 1947, but they divorced four years later. In 1954, she began what she later described as a long relationship with American actor Marlon Brando, which they kept secret for many years, until Brando’s death in 2004. However, in 1957 she married the film director Jose Cohn; this marriage was annulled.

In a 1984 interview, p Morning editionPappas said, “I never thought there was a difference between a dramatic actor and a comic actor. I think there are good actors and bad actors … I would like to play a tragedy one day and be a nightclub act the next day. Why not?”

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