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Lost Continent: Cinema of Egypt

by The Africa Film Project
While a limited number of silent films were made in Egypt from 1896 (with 1927’s Layla notable as the first full length feature), Cairo’s film industry became a regional force with the coming of sound. Between 1930 and 1936, various small studios produced at least 44 feature films. In 1936, Studio Misr, financed by industrialist Talaat Harb, emerged as the leading Egyptian equivalent to Hollywood’s major studios, a role the company retained for three decades. Historians disagree in determining the beginning of cinema in Egypt, there are those who said that beginning in 1896 with the first film watched in Egypt, while others thought that the… Read more

While a limited number of silent films were made in Egypt from 1896 (with 1927’s Layla notable as the first full length feature), Cairo’s film industry became a regional force with the coming of sound. Between 1930 and 1936, various small studios produced at least 44 feature films. In 1936, Studio Misr, financed by industrialist Talaat Harb, emerged as the leading Egyptian equivalent to Hollywood’s major studios, a role the company retained for three decades.

Historians disagree in determining the beginning of cinema in Egypt, there are those who said that beginning in 1896 with the first film watched in Egypt, while others thought that the beginning of cinema in the June 20, 1907 with the a short documentary film about the visit of Khedive Abbas Hilmi II to the Institute of Mursi Abul-Abbas in Alexandria .and in 1917 where the director Mohamed Karim established a company for producing movies in Alexandria ,the company produced two films are “flowers dead” and “honor the Bedouin” were people watch them in the city of Alexandria in early 1918, In 1922 appeared film under the name “aunt Americanism”

For more than a hundred years of Egyptian cinema made more than 4000 movie represent a total balance of the rest of the Arab cinema, which now depend on it all the Arab satellite channels. Egypt is the most productive country in the Middle East in the field of film production.

The 1940s and 1950s are generally considered the “golden age” of Egyptian cinema. As in the West, films responded to the popular imagination, with most falling into predictable genres (happy endings being the norm), and many actors making careers out of playing strongly typed parts. In the words of one critic, “If an Egyptian film intended for popular audiences lacked any of these prerequisites, it constituted a betrayal of the unwritten contract with the spectator, the results of which would manifest themselves in the box office.”

Political changes in Egypt after the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 initially had little effect on Egyptian film. The Nasser regime sought control over the industry only after turning to socialism in 1961. By 1966, the Egyptian film industry had been nationalized; in the words of Ahmed Ramzi, a leading man of the era, “it went to the dogs”. The “heavy government hand” that accompanied nationalization of Egyptian film “stifled innovative trends and sapped its dynamism”.

By the 1970s, Egyptian films struck a balance between politics and entertainment. Films such as 1972’s Khalli Balak min Zouzou (Watch out for Zouzou), starring “the Cinderella of Arab cinema”, Suad Husni, sought to balance politics and audience appeal. Zouzou integrated music, dance, and contemporary fashions into a story that balanced campus ferment with family melodrama.

The late 1970s and 1980s saw the Egyptian film industry in decline, with the rise of what came to be called “contractor movies”. Actor Khaled El Sawy has described these as films “where there is no story, no acting and no production quality of any kind… basic formula movies that aimed at making a quick buck.” The number of films produced also declined, from nearly 100 movies a year in the industry’s prime to about a dozen in 1995.

This lasted until summer 1997, with “Ismailia Rayeh Gayy” (translation: Ismailia back and forth). The comedy shocked the cinema industry enjoying unparalleled success and providing large profits for the producers, introducing Mohammed Fouad (a famous singer) and Mohammed Henedy a rather unknown actor who then became the number one comedian star. Building on the success of that movie, several comedy films were released in the following years.

1.Abdelhalim Hafez (El Andaleeb) (1929-1977) عبد الحليم حافظ
For thirty years, Muhammad Abdel Wahab dominated Arabic song. Then suddenly a sickly young man called Abdel Halim Hafez appeared, and earned for himself the name al-Andalib al-Asmar, The Dark Nightingale.

The upstart’s sudden rise to fame took the Singer of Kings and Princes by sur­prise. In an attempt to smother him, he signed him up with his own production company, Sawt al-Fann (The Voice of Art) and paid him a pittance. But there was no stopping the new arrival, and before long he was every girl’s dream and the role model for young men. He had replaced Abdel Wahab in their hearts.

His success was even enough to irritate Umm Kulthum. “Boy, you’re a crooner, not a real singer,” she told him one day, in front of the press.

In his short life, Abdel Halim made more films than Abdel Wahab and Umm Kulthum put together, acting and singing with almost every female star of the 1950s and 1960s. He shared his first film, Lahn al-Wafa’ (The Song of Fidelity, 1955) with Fatin Hamama and singer Shadia. In Banat al-Yawm (Today’s Girls, 1957), he costarred with actress Magda, and in al-Wasada al-Khaliya (The Empty Pillow) with Lubna Abdel Aziz. Mariam Fakhr al-Din played alongside him in Hikayat Hubb (Tale of Love, 1959), followed by Suad Husni in al-Banat wal-Sayf (The Girls and Summer, 1960), and Zubayda Tharwat in Yawm min `Umri (A Day in My Life, 1961). In al-Khataya (The Sins, 1962) he was joined by Nadia Lutfi, who appeared with him once again in 1969 in Abi Fawqa al-Shagara (My Father is up the Tree).

Henry Barakat, who directed him in Ayyam wa-Layali (Days and Nights, 1955), Maw’id Gharam (A Romantic Date, 1956) and Today’s Girls (1957), described Abdel Halim as “sensitive, as much an actor as he was a singer.” Other directors who helped his ascent to stardom were Muhammad Karim in Dalila (1956), the first Egyptian film in cinemascope; Salah Abu Sayf in The Empty Pillow (1957); Hilmi Rafla in Fata Ahlami (Man of My Dreams, 1958) and Ma’budat al-Jamahir (Public Idol, 1967); Fatin Abdel Wahab in The Girls and Summer, Hasan al-Imam in The Sins and Husayn Kamal in My Father is up the Tree.

My Father is up the Tree, Abdel Halim’s last film, was an unprecedented suc­cess in Egyptian cinema, running for thirty-six weeks. Abdel Halim played the lover of a prostitute (Nadia Lutfi) in a tavern on the Alexandria harbor. His rival is his father, played by Emad Hamdi. Young men would return to the theater several times in an effort to count the kisses. The film has never been shown on Egyptian television, for censorship reasons.

Adel Emam (El Zaeem) (1940-present) عادل إمام
Adel Imam (sometimes credited as: Adel Emam), (Arabic: عادل إمام‎), born May 17, 1940 in El Mansoura (المنصورة), is a popular Egyptian movie and stage actor. He is primarily a comedian, but he has starred in more serious works and, especially in his earlier films, has combined comedy with romance.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture from Cairo University. Since then he has appeared in over 100 movies and 10 plays. He is probably the most famous actor in Egypt He has received critical and popular praise throughout his career. His roles have displayed a wide range of humour including slapstick, farce, and even the occasional double entendre. His characters tend to be down on their luck rising above powerful outside pressures. This has proved an extremely resilient type in Egypt.

In January 2000, the United Nations appointed him as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. Since then, he has worked tirelessly for the cause of refugees. He has been cast several times by the producer Emad Adeeb in movies like Morgan Ahmed Morgan and Hassan and Marcus.

In 2005, he starred in Sifaara fil’Aimara (Embassy in the Building), playing a Cairene everyman inconvenienced when the Embassy of Israel moves into his apartment building.

In 2006, he appeared as one of the many stars of The Yacoubian Building, a film reputed to be the highest-budgeted in Egyptian cinema and adapted from the novel of the same name. The story is a sharp look at contemporary Egyptian life through the prism of a faded downtown Cairo apartment building. Emam portrays an aging roué whose misadventures form a central strand of the film’s complex narrative.

In 2011, Adel Emam starred in an ad campaign for Vodafone Egypt titled ‘Kowetna’ (Our Power).

Anwar Wagdi (1904-1955) أنور وجدي
Anwar Wagdi was of Syrian origin, the son of a textile trader, and believed from an early age that he resembled the American actor Robert Taylor. His first appearance on stage was in Julius Caesar in 1922. It was not until ten years later that he made it onto the screen, taking minor parts in Awlad al-Zawat (Children of the Aristocracy, 1932), and then in al-Difa’a (The Defense, 1935).

For his part in The Defense, Wagdi was paid six pounds, which he spent on three tailored suits, firmly believing that his tailor would play a major role in his success.

After moving between various theater companies, he settled with the National Theater Troupe established by the government in 1935, earning three pounds a month. Over the next five years, he took leading roles in several plays. But soon cinema called him back, and he played the lead role in Bayya’ al-Tufah (The Apple Seller, 1943), directed by his friend Husayn Fawzi. In 1944 Togo Mizrahi gave him the principal part in Kadhbfi Kadhb (Lies in Lies). Costarring with dancer Biba Ezz al-Din, he played a despondent young man weighed down by debt.

In 1945, he resigned from the National Theater Troupe and formed his own film company. Its first production, that same year, was Layla Bint al-Fuqara’ (Layla, Daughter of the Poor), which he directed and starred in opposite Layla Murad. Soon after, he married Murad, and directed her in Qalbi Dalili (My Heart is my Guide, 1947), ‘Anbar (1948), and in 1951 his masterpiece, Ghazal al-Banat (The Flirtation of Girls).

In the meantime he had discovered the child actress Fayrouz, who sang and danced like an Arab Shirley Temple. He made several successful films with her, notably Yasmin in 1950.

By the 1950s, Anwar Wagdi had become the leading light of Egyptian cinema. His name had only to appear on a project for distributors to flock to finance it. His specialty was melodrama mixed with fast-paced musical scenes, great­ly helped by the editing skills of Kamal al-Shaykh and others.

Suddenly at the height of his fame, wealthy and married to actress Layla Fawzi, Anwar Wagdi died of kidney failure, aged fifty-one.

Farid Shawky (1920-1998) فريد شوقي
Farid Shawki Mohammad Abduh Badawi (Arabic: فريد شوقي محمد عبده بدوي‎) (July 30, 1920 in Cairo – July 27, 1998) known as Farid Shawki (Arabic: فريد شوقي ‎) was an Egyptian actor, screenwriter and film producer. In his life, he acted in 361 films, 12 play and 12 television series; wrote 22 film scripts; and produced 26 films.

He was also known as Malek El Terso (“The King of the Third Class” – a reference to his popularity among the poor, who bought third-class seats in movie theatres), as “Wahsh Ash shashah Al Arabiyah the Monster of the Arab Silver Screen” in honor of his various roles of beloved hero, as Farid Bay (“Sir Farid”, an informal title of respect), and as Abu el-Banat (“father of all girls”, a reference to his having five daughters and no sons).

In a career spanning almost 60 years, Shawki starred, produced, or wrote the scenario of over 400 films – more than the films produced collectively by the whole Arab world – in addition to theatre, television and video plays. His popularity covered the whole of the Arab World, including Turkey where he acted in some films there, and directors always addressed his as ’ Farid Bay’ (Sir Farid) as a sign of respect. As he worked with over 90 Film directors and producers.

For the first ten years he typically cast as a villain. By late 1940s his name alongside that of the late Mahmoud el-Mileegy guaranteed a box-office success. In 1950 he changed that image forever, playing the leading role in Ga’aloony Mujriman (“They Made Me a Criminal”), his own script in which he tackled the problem of homeless children and the first crime thus exposing the failure of government policy and the corruption of state run orphanages and young offenders institutions.

Disliked by the establishment, the film was later awarded the State Prize; Shawki went on to collect 10 best actor awards in many festivals, and four other awards for his scripts in the next thirty years.

Critics referred to him as the “John Wayne” or “Anthony Quinn” of Egyptian cinema and of the Arabic speaking World", and to the masses he was the Beast of the Silver Screen, who championed the underdog, especially women, and the dispossessed using an effective mixture of cunning, physical strength, personal charm, and unbending principles, to overcome the wicked aggressors. With an illiteracy of over 80 per cent at the time, the “Screen Beast” personified the masses’ dreams of defeating the wealthy, who were above the law thanks to an unjust class system.

Screenwriter Abd-el-Hay Adeeb once had to rewrite a scene in a film after it had been released: Shawki’s character was slapped on the back of the neck, which is a sign of contempt in southern Mediterranean countries; the cinema audience in the city of Assiut rioted in protest, destroying the building.

In 1969, Youssef Chahine’s film al-Ardh (“The Land”) ended with the main character being dragged to his death behind the horse of a corrupt police officer. Audiences called for the “Beast” – Shawki – to come to his rescue, despite the fact that Shawki did not appear in that film.

A number of critics spent a great deal of time discussing the phenomenon as it was clear that Shawki lived in the psyche of the nation as an image greater than reality and he represented hope and implementation of justice during the totalitarian military rule in the 1950s and 60’s. With the influence of Egyptian cinema on the whole of the Middle East, the “Beast of the Silver Screen” had a similar status in all Arabic-speaking nations, where the main entertainment was, and still to a large degree, Egyptian films.

Film producers and financiers called Shawki – Malek el-Terso – or the King of the Third Class (Terso is an Egyptian slang word derived from the Italian word referring to the cheap third class seats in the cinema from which the bulk of the box office takings came). Shawki was born in July 1920 in El Baghghala neighborhood of Cairo’s popular quarter of Al-Sayyedah Zynab, where the majority of residents were the terso- film goers when Egyptian cinema started turning into a big industry. Shawki worked as a civil servant as the Second World War broke out. He was given small parts in Ramsis Theatre group headed by Youssef Bay Wahby, then he worked with Anwar Wagdy doing small parts on the silver screen. He also formed a local theatre group `The National League of Acting’ which included his young wife actress Zainab Abd-el-Hady whom he married in 1941, they had one daughter Mona. They were divorced four years later, when he married his second wife, dancer Saneya Shawki, whom he also divorced in 1950.

By 1943 the NLA became The 20 Theatre as the members grew to 20 all became household names in Egyptian theatre and cinema for decades to come. The group specialized in presenting Chekov’s plays, and Shawki excelled in playing the leading parts – later on he loved to play classic parts in screenplays of novels by Nobel Prize holder Naguib Mahfouz. One of them was playing the role of Sultan in the film Bidaya wa nihaya.

With success in theatre, and small parts in films, Shawki left his post at the civil service in 1946. Few months later the 20 Theatre became the nucleus of the Higher Institute of Drama. In 1947 he made his mark in the film “Mala’eka Fi Gohanam” ` Angels in Hell’. With his third wife, singer and actress Huda Sultan, whom he married in 1951, they made a famous partnership in more than 80 films. The marriage lasted 18 years and produced two daughters Maha and Nahed who is a successful film producer in her own right. He was working on a script for his daughter in film dealing with homeless young people just before he died.

In 1970, he married Soheir Turk, they stayed together until he died, she also gave him two daughters Rania and Abir.

He was survived by wife Soheir Turk and five daughters Mona, Nahed, Maha, Rania and Abir. His brother was the late General Staff of Egyptian Army Ahmad Shawki. Farid’s youngest daughter, Rania, is a well known actress. She has two children from husband Atef Awad, Fareeda and Malak. His other daughter from Soheir, Abir, is a film director with two children as well.

Faten Hamama (1931-present) فاتن حمامة

Fatin Hamama discovered the cinema when she was young, living with her family in the eastern Delta, where her father worked as a primary school secre­tary. Her father took her to see her first film in the provincial town of Mansura. The actress Asya was there for the opening of her new film. Young Fatin saw her from a distance, glittering in the lights, surrounded by the admiring crowd, and was captivated.

Around the same time, her father entered her for a magazine beauty contest for children. Fatin won the contest, and her father won the cash prize. Her winning picture soon found its way into the hands of director Muhammad Karim, who saw in it a delicacy he wanted for a young girl’s role in his next film with Muhammad Abd al-Wahab. The film, Yawm Sa’id (Happy Day), was released in 1940 and when audiences left the theaters, the talk was not of established stars but about the young girl who said to Abd al-Wahab, “Mama cooked some apricot preserves for you today”

Hamama grew up in the industry and married in it, twice—first to director Ezz al-Din Zulfiqar, then to actor Omar al-Sharif—before finally marrying a respected radiologist, Dr. Muhammad Abd al-Wahab.

She was especially loved by the middle-class girls of Egyptian society, even Arab society, because in almost one hundred films she created the image of the good girl, whose fate was always in the oppressive hands of others. Her character was essentially passive, never struggling against challenges, but facing them instead with a forbearance that bordered on surrender. Her films were overwhelm­ingly melodramatic, to the extent that she became known as Madame Melo.

Despite the huge number of tear-jerkers she appeared in, her image was redeemed by a sharp intelligence. She was leading lady in Henry Barakat’s best films: Du’aa al-Karawan (Call of the Curlew, 1959), al-Haram (The Sin,1965), al­Khayt al-Rafi’ (The Thin Thread, 1971), and La Azza’ lil-Sayidat (Women Can’t Come to the Funeral, 1979). In the 1993 she appeared in Dawud Abd al-Sayed’s Ard al-Ahlam (Land of Dreams), which, despite its box-office flop, is considered by many one of the best films of the decade.

Hend Rostom (1933-present)
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Rustom was a sex symbol of 1950s Egyptian cinema who starred in more than 60 films—largely comedies, melodramas, and crime genre vehicles—from that period through the early 1970s. Although not a formally trained belly dancer, Rustom did perform as such onscreen, incorporating Latin American modes (mambo, cha-cha). Rustom’s career was marked by persistent tension between her typecast image and her commitment to quality performance. Her first film appearance was Flowers and Thorns (Mohamed Abdel Gawad, 1947), alongside Yehia Shahin. Upon her marriage to director Hassan Reda, Rustom starred in his unsuccessful Reason Is Bliss (1950); later, she would feature in films directed by her second husband, Hassan El-Iman, including Women of the Night (1955) and The Body (1955), in both as a dancer whose redemp­tion comes in the form of a respectable man, yet who nonetheless meets an untimely death. Although often referred to as the Egyptian “Marilyn Monroe,” Rustom’s voluptuous persona was far from the “dumb blonde,” exuding both elegance and feistiness.

Eventually, she began appearing in socially more meaningful films, including Libyan Ahmed Toukhi’s The Triumph of Islam (1952) and Class Distinctions (Al-Sayed Ziyada, 1954). There followed perhaps her most memorable roles, in Youssef Chahine’s My One and Only Love (1957), alongside Farid al-Atrache, as part of an allegorical love triangle, and Cairo Station (1958), playing opposite Chahine. These roles garnered Rustom acclaim and led to further significant parts, often in projects by prestigious directors. These include I Can’t Sleep (Salah Abu Seif, 1957), alongside Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama; Struggle on the Nile (Atef Salem, 1959), co-starring Sharif; Crime of Love (Salem, 1959), with Emad Hamdi; I Think of the Man Who Has Forgotten Me (Hossam Eddine Mostafa, 1959), alongside Fairuz; and Between Heaven and Earth (Abu Seif, 1959), a comedy. Rustom likewise appeared in several Niazi Mustafa and Fatin Abdel-Wahab vehicles during this period. In 1963, her acting skills were honored with an Egyptian Association for Film Writers and Critics Best Actress award. While she continued to perform in films throughout the 1960s, notably in The Bachelor Husband (Has­san 1966) and Leaving Paradise (Mahmoud Zulficar, 1967), again alongside al-Atrache, Rustom became increasingly dissatisfied with cinema and the lack of privacy her stardom afforded her. She retired from the screen in 1975.

Ismail Yasin (1915-1972)
Ismail Yasin (also credited as Ismail Yasseen; Arabic: إسماعيل ياسين‎ IPA: [esmæˈʕiːl jæˈsiːn]) (September 15, 1915-May 24, 1972) was an Egyptian comedian/actor. He is famous for a series of films with his name in the title.

Ismail Yassin had a difficult childhood in Suez where he was born. His mother died at an early age and his father was jailed thus forcing him to leave school before completing his primary education. He worked as a parking valet to support himself.

He started his career as a monologue singer and headed for Cairo after Abo El Seoud El Ebiary, the comic screenwriter and his best friend and life partner had discovered him and had helped him to join Badi’a Masabny’s troupe. His break into the movie industry came when Fouad El-Gazaery gave him his first role in the movie “Khalf El-Habayeb” in 1939. He later joined Ali El-Kassar’s troupe and started to gain widespread recognition eventually becoming one of most popular stars in the Arab world. A record 15 movies used his name in their titles to capitalize on his fame, most of them was written by Abo El Seoud El Ebiary.

He was not particularly attractive but he had great control of his facial expressions and often made fun of his ‘large mouth’ in his films. His trademark gimmick was to act terrified bringing his wobbling knees together, stretching his shaking arms in front of him, stammering silently, and suddenly snapping out of his panic with a loud inhalation of air.

In the 1960s his health began to deteriorate. He moved to Lebanon where he participated in a number of films, and later when he returned to Egypt he was heavily in debt. He died of a heart attack in 1972. His son, Yasin Ismail Yasin, is also famous Egyptian film director.

Khaled Abol Naga (1966-present)

Khaled Abol Naga (born 2 November 1966) is an Egyptian actor, TV host, producer and director. He is a Human and Child rights activist and has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since his appointment in 2007. He has worked across a variety of media, including theatre, radio, television and film.

After the musical, Khaled was offered the role of one of the lead characters in Sahar El Layali (Sleepless Nights), which became a hit in the summer of 2003. Later that same year, Khaled was awarded Best Actor at the ‘Damascus International Film Festival’, then awarded Best Actor Award in Paris from the Institute du Monde Arabe film festival. He also won the Egyptian equivalent of an Oscar in 2004. After Sahar El Layali, Khaled acted in five more movies in a very short period of time. In 2004, he acted in Yom El Karama (Dignity Day) and Hob El Banat (Girl’s Love). In 2005, he released three more movies: Harb Italia (Italian war), Malek wa Ketaba (Heads and Tails), and Banat West El Balad (Downtown Girls). In 2006, he starred in The Game of Love and Civic Duty. In 2007 and 2008, his work in Kashf Hesab gained much critical attention. He also acted in an action thriller drama for the first time in Agamista, and even a totally unexpected comedy Habibi Naeman, a remake of an American movie in an Egyptian setting. In 2009, he recorded a record while touring and won awards for One-Zero and Heliopolis, which he co-produced for first-time director Ahmad Abdalla. In 2007 he stated that, “I am heading to writing and producing and even directing” an announced project in 2011.

Abol Naga has a record of presence in International Film Festivals, in 2009-2010 he set a record of 12 international film festivals (Venice Film Festival, Toronto’s tiff, Vancouver’s VIFF, Cairo’s CIFF, Abu Dhabi’s ADIFF, Doha Tribecca Film Festival, London’s BFI, Thessaloniki FF, and more) inviting him either as a Jury member or as an actor in his two award winning movies “One-Zero” or “Heliopolis”.

In 2010 he co-produced and starred “Microphone”, that is touring festivals internationally now (Toronto’s tiff10, Vancouver’s VIFF, rumored to be at Cairo’s CIFF, Abu Dhabi’s ADIFF, Doha Tribecca Film Festival, London’s BFI, Thessaloniki FF, and more)

Layla Murad (1918-1995)
Layla Murad began her film career in 1932, singing “The Day of Departure” in al-Dahaya (The Victims), directed by Badr Lama. Egyptian cinema was on the threshold of sound. The Victims had originally been made as a silent film, but the public wanted Hollywood-style talkies, so Lama added the song by Layla Murad. She was only fifteen.

At the time, she was being trained by Dawud Husni and her father, Zaki Murad, both prominent Jewish composers. Several years passed without further involvement in cinema, until in 1938 she was chosen to play the female lead in Yahya al-Hubb (Long Live Love), alongside Muhammad Abd al-Wahab. Murad combined physical grace, a sweet and well-trained voice, a beautiful face, and eyes that shone with innocence and passion. A star was born.

Togo Mizrahi swept her up and made her into the number one Egyptian actress, through four films: Layla Mumtara (A Rainy Night, 1939), Layla Bint al-Rif (Layla, Girl of the Country 1941), Layla Bint al-Madaris (Layla the Schoolgirl, 1941), and finally Layla (1942). Then, once again, Murad disappeared from the screen, this time to reappear two years later in her fifth and final Mizrahi film, Layla fil-Zalam (Layla in the Dark, 1944).

The use of Murad’s name in all these titles—indirectly in Rainy Night (Arabic for “night” is layla, pronounced the same as the name, but spelled differently)— shows just how marketable she was. Layla, her fourth Togo Mizrahi film, ran for twenty-two weeks.

Murad later married Anwar Wagdi, actor, director, and producer, converting to Islam in the process. Of the twenty-one films she went on to make, the most famous is Ghazal al-Banat (The Flirtation of Girls, 1949), directed by Wagdi, in which she starred opposite Naguib al-Rihani. Another great performance was in Shati’ al-Gharam (Romance Beach, 1950), directed by Henry Barakat. Her worst film was probably her last, Al-Habib al-Majhoul (The Unknown Lover, 1955), directed by Hasan al-Sayfi. With the failure of this film, the banning of “With Unity, Order, and Work”—her song to commemorate the Free Officers’ revolution of 1952—and the outbreak of the Suez War in 1956, Murad retired, at the age of thirty-eight.

Naguib Al Rihani (1889-1949)
Naguib el-Rihani (Arabic: نجيب الريحاني‎) (21 January 1889 – 8 June 1949) was an Egyptian actor. Born in Bab El Shereya, Cairo, Egypt to an Iraqi ethnic Assyrian father by the name of “Elias El Rihani” who was a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church and worked as a horse expert and trader who eventually settled in Cairo where he met and eventually married Naquib’s mother a Coptic Christian lady from Cairo, (he was one of three sons). He was educated in the French school “Les Freres”, in Cairo.

He had a turbulent marriage, with Badeaa Masabny, a Lebanese actress / dancer, who settled in Cairo, and established her famous cabaret, “Casino Badeaa”, and separated before his death. He died at the age of 60 years old in Cairo, of Typhus, while filming his last film “Ghazal Al Banat”.

He established his own theatrical group in the late 1910s, in Cairo, and partnered his long-life friend Badeih Khairy, in adapting several French theatre hits, to the Egyptian Theatre, and later to the Cinema.

A great comedian both on stage and in films, he is considered “The Father of Comedy” in Egypt. Fuad Al Mohandes, the great Egyptian comedian of modern times, always acknowledged Naguib Al Rihani’s effect on him and his style in acting.

Nadia Lutfi (1937-present)
Acting for Nadia started as a hobby; when she was 10 years old she participated in a play at her school and did very well. When the 20-year-old was about to make her screen debut in 1958, Omar Sharif was the reigning king of the Arab cinema, and his wife, Faten Hamama, its queen. The star couple had just had a smash hit with the film La Anam with Hamama as “Nadia Lotfy”, a willful teen who destroys her father’s marriage. Young Paula appropriated the name.

With her fresh new name, the young actress took her first role in a modest, black & white drama, Soultan. Her second picture was a smaller role in one of the film landmarks of its time, Cairo Station, the film that brought filmmaker Youssef Chahine to international attention and acclaim when it played in competition at the Berlin Film Festival.

But in Egypt, as Bab el hadid, the film’s story of a crippled newsboy’s doomed love for a lemonade stand girl, and its tragic outcome, was abhorred by Cairo critics and audiences. The film wasn’t screened again in Egypt for almost 20 years.

Lutfi’s career progressed, and it soon became clear how her fans wanted to see her; primarily in light melodramas with a few sprightly musical interludes, à la 1962’s al Khataya, with Nadia as a hopeful bride, rejected by her fiancee’s father (until the final reel).

But there were a few exceptional films as well. In 1963, she played a Frankish woman warrior of the Crusade era, donning full armor to go into battle against her Christian-Arab lover, in Naser Salah el Dine (occasionally shown on US TV as Saladin and the Great Crusades). In 1964’s Lil-Rigal Faqat, or For Men Only, Lutfi and co-star Su’ad Husni played women geologists who, denied employment, respond by disguising themselves as men and going to work, where they find they have to suppress their romantic natures to sustain the disguise.

In the mid-1960s, Lutfi starred in two films that were based on stories by Nobel-winning author Naguib Mahfouz, just a few years following the publication of his widely-banned novel of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, Children of Gebelawi. Lutfi finished the decade starring in 1969’s Abi foq al-Shagara, or My Father Atop a Tree, as a night club dancer who beds a much younger man, then discovers that she once knew his father equally well.

In the 1970s, Lutfi’s career quickly wound down as Egypt’s “Golden Age” for films came to a close, due to increasing competition from East and West, the growth of home video, and increasing costs for the film industry. Having made close to 50 films in the first 11 years of her career, she only made three in the decade that followed, and has not worked in film since 1981.

Early in 2004, Lutfi interceded with the press on behalf of her long-time friend, Omar Sharif, who had rashly told the Arab press that he would allow his grandchildren, one of whom is Jewish, to choose their own religions as they mature. In 2006, Lutfi returned to the spotlight when a video by young Lebanese singer Nourhanne recreated a musical scene from one of her first films, Bain al Qasrayn.

Naima Akef (1932-1966)

Naima Akef’s father owned the Akef Circus and at the age of four, she began her training as a trapeze artist. Growing into a beautiful young woman, she became an oriental dancer at Casino Badia Masabni. She made a brief dancing appearance in Sit al-Bayt (Lady of the House, 1949) by Ahmed Kamel Morsi.

Soon after, director Abbas Kamel saw her dance at a night club and was so taken by her that he quickly brought his brother, Husayn Fawzi, to the club. As soon as he saw her, Husayn felt he had found what he was looking for, a girl with a talent for dancing, singing, acrobatics, and acting, and with a beautiful face and gorgeous figure. He gave her the lead role in his film al-Eish wal-Malh (Bread and Salt, 1949), opposite singer Saad Abd al-Wahab, Muhammad Abd al-Wahab’s nephew Audiences immediately fell in love with her and fame was instantaneous. Husayn Fawzi quickly monopolized her, signing her up for his coming films.

Their relationship culminated in marriage although Husayn was almost twen­ty-four years older. Naima’s first eleven films were all directed by Husayn Fawzi, who also wrote the script for most of them—that remains unique in Egyptian cin­ema, and perhaps in any cinema in the world.

After starring in Arba’ Banat wa Dhabit (Four Girls and an Officer, 1954) by Anwar Wagdi, Naima took the lead role in Fawzi’s Bahr al-Gharam (Sea of Love, 1955) opposite Rushdi Abaza. Then she made Madraset al-Banat (The Girls’ School, 1955) with Kamel al-Tilmissani. Before their divorce, she made two more films with Husayn Fawzi: Tamr Henna (Tamarind) and Ahebak Ya Hassan (I Love You Hassan), both in 1957.

Altogether Naima Akef and Husayn Fawzi made fourteen successful films, all comedy-musicals revolving around a high spirited, common girl: a showgirl with whom the pasha’s son falls in love in Lahaleebo (The Firebrand, 1949); an alley girl who rejects the pasha’s temptation in Baladi wa Khifa (Common and Light, 1950); a street girl finding work for her family in a theater in Furigat (Relief, 1951); a circus girl with whom an aristocrat falls in love in Fatat al-Sirk (Circus Girl, 1951); a club dancer who discovers the barman is her father in al-Nimr (The Tiger, 1952). Once they divorced, both stars began to wane. Husayn Fawzi died in 1962, and Naima four years later, aged just thirty-seven.

Omar Sharif (1932-prsent)
Omar al-Sharif was born Michel Dimitri Shalhoub, to an Alexandrian family of Lebanese descent. He was discovered by director Yusef Chahine, who cast him in three films: Sira’afil-Wadi (Feud in the Valley, 1953), Shaytan al-Sahara (The Desert Devil, 1954), and Sira’a fil-Mina (Feud in the Port, 1955). The friendship with Chahine soured however, and all cooperation between them ended after Feud in the Port.

A passionate love affair with star Fatin Hamama led to marriage, following her divorce from director Ezz al-Din Zulfiqar. Several films later, in some of which he costarred with his wife, including Ard al-Salam (Land of Peace, 1955) by Kamal al-Shaykh and La Anam (I Don’t Sleep, 1957) by Salah Abu Sayf, he was chosen by French director, Jacques Baratier, to star in Goha (1958).

Until 1963, when David Lean cast him as Sharif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia, he acted only in Egyptian films, some now classics: Ihna al-Talamiza (We are the Students, 1959) by Atef Salem, Bidaya wa Nihaya (A Beginning and an End, 1960) by Salah Abu Sayf, and Fi Baytuna Ragul (A Man in Our House, 1961) by Henry Barakat.

With his nomination for an Oscar as best supporting actor in Lawrence of Arabia, Omar al-Sharif became an international star, and for over twenty years he acted only in foreign films, with one exception, al-Mamalik (The Mamelukes, 1965) by Atef Salem. He appeared in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) by Anthony Mann, Dr Zhivago (1965) by David Lean, and Funny Girl (1968) by William Wyler.

From 1969, his acting career went downhill, and he began to accept minor parts in poor films. Finally he returned to Egypt and made four films: Ayyoub (1984) and al-Aragoz (The Puppet, 1989), both TV productions directed by Hany Lasheen; Muwatin Misri (Egyptian Citizen, 1993) by Salah Abu Sayf; and Dihk wa Li’b wa Gad wa Hubb (Laughter, Play, Seriousness, and Love, 1993), Tarek al­-Tilmissani’s first film.

None of these films achieved the success worthy of Omar al-Sharif’s status in Egyptian cinema as its only actor to rise to international stardom. But, alongside the best of his films, his dashing good looks and his skill at bridge ensure that he is not forgotten.

Samia Gamal (1924-1994)
Born in Wana, Egypt, and raised near the Khan El Khalil bazaar in Cairo, this world-renowned belly dancer began her performance career in a 1940s Cairo nightclub owned by Badia Masabni, a highly influential Syrian-born dancer, who also discovered Tahiyya Carioca. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gamal met and began co-starring with Syrian— Lebanese singer—composer Farid al-Atrache (who became her lover) in several Egyptian musicals, in which she played the love inter­est. These included: The Genie Lady (Henri Barakat, 1949), the acknowledged inspiration for the orientalist U.S. television shows I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched; It’s You I Love (Ahmed Badra­khan, 1949); Last Lie (Badrakhan, 1950); Come and Say Hello (Helmi Rafla, 1951); Don’t Tell Anyone (Barakat, 1952); and A Glass and a Cigarette (Niazi Mustafa, 1955).

Like her contemporary and rival, Tahiyya Carioca, Gamal’s belly dancing combined Western forms, including ballet and flamenco, but Gamal’s innovation was a modern improvisational style that in­volved freer movement and seemed less formal; she was also the first belly dancer to wear high-heeled shoes while performing. In 1949, King Farouk proclaimed her the National Dancer of Egypt. Thus did she garner international attention, soon enjoying a nightclub run in New York City’s Latin Quarter, becoming the subject of a series of Gjon Mili photographs that appeared in the 24 March 1952 issue of Life magazine, and featuring in the French cinematic production of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Jacques Becker, 1954). After a failed marriage to a Texas businessman claiming bogus oil wealth, she returned to Egypt, where she married actor Rushdi Abaza, and in 1959, was cast alongside Omar Sharif as a benevolent government spy posing as a belly dancer in Rendezvous with a Stranger (Atef Salem). Gamal continued performing with relative consistency well into her seventies, almost until her death from cancer.

Shadia (1929-present)
Fatma Ahmed Kamal Shaker was given the stage- name “Shadia” by director Helmi Rafla. In her heyday during the 1950s and 1960s, she avoided being typecast by working with a number of different directors and in different genres—melo­drama, romance, and comedy. It was, however, her musical talent as a singer that established Shadia as one of the most important Egyptian cinema stars of her era. She starred with actor Kamal E­Shinawy in more than 30 films, and sang opposite Farid al-Atrache and Abdel Halim Hafez —most notably in The People’s Idol (Rafla, 1967). She appeared with Faten Hamama in An Appointment with Life (Ezzedine Zulficar, 1954), while in The Unknown Woman (Mahmoud Zulficar, 1959), she plays the role of Fatma in a heavy melodrama in which she faces a series of tragedies and injustices, commits murder, and is defended in court by her estranged son; she also played the good-hearted seductress who takes in a fugitive in The Thief and the Dogs (Kamal E1-Sheikh, 1962). Shadia likewise performed strongly in comedy roles, most notably in Wife Number 13 (Fatin Abdel-Wahab, 1962) and My Wife the General Manager (Abdel-Wahab, 1966).

Although often cast in cunning and cheeky roles, Shadia’s fea­tures could adopt serious, melodramatic expression. In The Road (Zulficar, 1964), while Souad Hosni played the young, naive desk clerk who falls in love with Saber (Rushdi Abaza), Shadia took on the role of his mistress who sneaks to his room while her elderly husband sleeps. She also played Skina opposite actress Soheir El­Bably in the stage version of Raya and Sakina, based on the true story of two Alexandrian serial killers and directed by Hussein Kama (The 1953 film version directed by Salah Abu Seif is heralded as a classic of Egyptian cinema.) Shadia performed in more than 100 films before she retired from the public eye and joined a number of actresses who took on the veil (hijab) in an act of Islamic resistance and salvation.

Shukry Sarhan (1925-1997)
Sarhan was born in Al Sharqiya, Egypt in 12 March 1925. He graduated from the High Institute of Acting in Egypt in 1947. In 1949, Sarhan acted in his first movie, Lahalibo (لهاليبو). His rise to stardom was in 1951 when Youssef Chahine, a famous Egyptian film director, chose him for the lead role in the movie Ibn al-Nile (ابن النيل, “Son of the Nile”).

Sarhan had earned the title “The young man of the screen”. He received several awards throughout his career. President Gamal Abdel Nasser honored Sarhan with “Egypt’s decoration”. In 1984, he received a Best Actor’s award for his lead role, with Faten Hamama, in the movie Laylat al-Qabdh ‘Ala Fatima (ليلة القبض على فاطمة, "The Night of Fatima’s Arrest") which was directed by Henry Barakat.

During the celebrations of the centennial of cinema he was nominated by Egyptian critics as the best actor of the century in Egypt, having participated more than any other actor in some of the best 100 Egyptian films.

Sahran’s last movie was Al-Gablawi (الجبلاوي) in 1991. He died in 1997.

Souad Hosni (El Cindrella) (1944-2001)
After she first appeared in Henri Barakat’s Hassan wa Na’eema (Hassan and Na’eema, 1959), Suad Husni became known as the Cinderella of the Screen and The Mischievous Girl. Born into an artistic family, she started her career at the age of three. She could act, sing, dance, and perform both comedy and tragedy; a woman with a thousand faces and beautiful eyes.

However, for more than eight years, she too often appeared in films by second or third-rate directors, or directors who were past their prime.

In 1966, she costarred with Rushdi Abaza, an actor of amazing presence, in Shahawet Rigala (Men’s Mischievousness) by Hossam al-Din Mustafa, Saghira ala al-Hubb (Too Young to Love) and Ganab al-Safir (His Excellency the Ambassador) by Niyazi Mustafa, and Mabka al-’Ushak (Lovers’ Wailing) by Hasan al-Sayfi. Famous directors like Salah Abu Sayf, Kamal al-Shaykh, Yusef Chahine, Hassan al-Imam, and Atef Salem competed for her. Ahmed Badrakhan ended his career with Suad starring in his film Nadia (1969).

Al-Qahira Thalatheen (Cairo ’30, 1966), adapted from a story by Naguib Mahfouz, and al-Zawga al-Thaneya (The Second Wife, 1967) from a story by Ahmed Rushdi Saleh were Abu Sayf’s most successful films with Suad Husni. In 1979, Husni played a Persian spy in the Iraqi propaganda film al-Qadisseya, Abu Sayf’s worst film, shown only in a second-rate theater in Cairo.

Yusef Chahine directed her in al-lkhtiar (The Choice, 1971) from a story by Mahfouz and al-Nass wal-Nil (The People and the Nile, 1972) about building the Aswan High Dam. Neither achieved any success, and the second was a disaster.

Her three films with Kamal al-Shaykh—Bi’r al-Hirman (Well of Deprivation, 1969), Ghurub wa Shuruk (Sunset and Sunrise, 1970) and Ala Man Nutlik al-Rassass (Who Do We Fire At?)—were hugely successful. Her film with Atef Salem, Ayna Akli? (Where’s My Mind? 1974) achieved similar success.

Her finest moment, however, was in Hassan al-Imam’s musical melodrama, Khalli Balak min Zuzu (Watch our for Zuzu, 1971). For the first time in Egyptian cinema, Suad played a mischievous university student who initiates the flirting with her beau, until he falls in love with her. Its success is perhaps only matched by Abi Fawqa al­Shagara (My Father is up the Tree).

At the peak of her glory, she married Ali Badrakhan, son of the director of Nadia. During their marriage and after their divorce and her marriage to scriptwriter Maher Awad, he directed six of her films, from al-Hubb iladhi Kan (The Love That Was, 1973) to al-Ra’i wal-Nissa’ (The Shepherd and the Women, 1991) with which she ended her career at the age of forty-eight.

Youssra (1955-present)
Yousra (Arabic: يسرا‎), (pronounced /ˈjɔːsrə/, yosra) is an Egyptian actress and singer. Her birth name is Civene Nassim. She is the sister-in-law of actor Hesham Selim, son of famous Egyptian football player, actor and former president of Al-Ahly, Saleh Selim. Youssra is considered as a glamorous icon for the Middle East. Despite obstacles, she has always managed to pull herself up into the limelight. Recently many people have acknowledged that Yousra has reached a point of stardom where anything she has to say will be heard by more people and to greater effect than even those in authority.

She first appeared in the 1980 film Athkiya’ Laken Aghbiya (Smart yet Stupid). Then she has done many different roles with many different looks. She has done comedy, drama and entertainment. Kasr Fi El Hawaa (Castle In the Air) by Abdel Halim Nasr in 1980, Fatah Tabhath Ann Alhob (A Girl Looking for Love) by Nader Galal in 1977, Alf Bossa Wa Bossa (A Thousand and One Kisses) by Mohamed Abdel Aziz in 1977 and Ebtessama Waheda Takfi (One Smile is Enough) by Mohamed Bassiyouni in 1978. These were followed by a number of successful films with Adel Emam such as Shabab Yarkoss Fawk Alnar (Youth Dancing on Fire) by Yehiya Al Alamy in 1978, Al Ensan Yaeesh Mara Waheda (Man Only Lives Once) by Simone Saleh in 1981, Ala Bab Al Wazeer (At the Door of the Minister) by Mohamd Abdel Aziz in 1982, Al Avocato (The Lawyer) by Raafat Al Mihi in 1984, Al Ins Wa Algen by Mohamed Radi in 1985, and Karakoun Fi El Shareih.

Later, Adel Emam and Yousra worked together in three different movies: Al Mansi (The Forgotten), Al Irhab Wal Kabab (Terrorism and Kebab), and Toyour Al Zalam (Birds of Darkness). In all three movies comedy was used to deliver an underlying political message to great critical and public acclaim.

A very important milestone in Yousra’s career was working with the famous Egyptian director Youssef Chahine. She acted in Chahine’s Hadduta Masreya (Egyptian Story) in 1982, Iskanderiya Kaman we Kaman (Alexandria Again and Again) in 1990, and Al Mohager (The Emigrant) in 1994. Yousra was very impressed with Chahine’s work, stating, “Youssef Chahine affected me on a personal and professional level. He is a school for anyone who works with him.”

She has made a number of the serial television dramas popular during Ramadan, including 2005’s Ahlam ‘Adiya (Ordinary Dreams). She portrayed an enterprising con woman in what the English version of Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram called "a major departure from the star’s usual Ramadan screen persona, which has consistently verged on the romantic and the demure."

In 2006, she took a supporting role in The Yacoubian Building, a star-laden adaptation of the novel of the same name. The film is reported to have had the highest budget of any Egyptian production to date. Playing an entertainer working in a restaurant, Youssra, according to Variety, “effortlessly stirs old emotional waters when she sings ‘La Vie en Rose.’”

Youssra released her first vocal album in 2002.

Youssef Wahbi (1898-1982)
Born the son of a pasha, Yusef Wahby was expected to become an engineer like his father. But a passion for acting drove him along an unforeseen path. To his father’s astonishment and rage, Yusef joined the circus. In so doing he became a per­son whose testimony was inadmissible in court, and a disgrace to the family. His father expelled him from the family home, then enrolled him in agricultural school in an attempt to reform him.

Wahbi fled to Italy, and plunged himself into the theater, changing his name to Ramses. He only returned to Egypt when he heard of his father’s death. Even shared out between him and his four siblings, the pasha’s legacy gave him person­ally some LE10,000 in gold. With this money, Wahbi set out to extricate the the­ater from what he saw as the abyss created by the dancing whiskers of Naguib al­ Rihani’s Kishkish Bey and the jiggling eyebrows of Ali al-Kassar.

To this end, he formed a theater company, the Ramses Troupe. In this early stage of his career, he became known as the Messenger of Divine Mercy for the Salvation of Acting. Opinion differed over the sobriquet’s creator, whether it was the publicity boys of the Ramses Troupe, or the boasting and self-aggrandizing Yusef Wahbi himself.

Wahbi’s entrance into cinema was delayed by an unexpected outcry in the press, and consequently the public, over his plan to portray the Prophet Muhammad on the screen. When the storm subsided, he agreed with his friend Muhammad Karim to make instead a long narrative film, Zaynab (1930), which he would finance and Karim would direct.

With characteristic self-confidence, Wahbi then asked Karim to direct the first Egyptian talkie. Wahbi wrote the script and played the leading role. When the film, Awlad al-Zawat (Children of the Aristocracy, 1932), achieved enor­mous success, Wahbi’s confidence grew further. He wrote the script to al-Difa’a (The Defense, 1935), his second film, and co-directed it with Niyazi Mustafa. For his third film, al-Majd al-Khalid (Immortal Glory, 1937), Wahbi was author, lead actor, and director, all in one.

On three films—Layla Mumtara (A Rainy Night, 1939), Layla Bint al-Rif (Layla, Girl of the Country, 1941) and Layla Bint al-Madaris (Layla the Schoolgirl, 1941)—he collaborated with Togo Mizrahi, submitting his own script and role to the other man’s direction. After the success of these three films, Wahbi directed Gharam wa Intigam (Romance and Revenge, 1944), in which, at the age of forty-six, he played a young lover, with singer Asmahan in her second and last film, short­ly before her death by drowning. The film contained a song which glorified the Egyptian royal family, and as a token of appreciation for this gesture he was awarded the title of Bey. Later, after the revolution, he received the National Appreciation Prize and an honorary doctoral degree.

In al-Iskandariya Layh? (Alexandria Why? 1979), he played an intellectual Jew who loved Egypt, the first actor to take such a role since the Free Officers’ Revolution.Wahbi was also responsible for building Ramses City, a cinematic town with a studio on more than two feddans.

Zaki Rostom (1903-1972)
Zaki Rostom (Arabic: زكي رستم‎) (1903–1972) Zaki Moharram Mahmoud Rostom Egyptian actor belongs to a school of integration, and is one of the most important actor of the Egyptian cinema.

Zaki Rostom was born on March 5, 1903 to aristocratic family of prominent position in Egypt, where his father and grandfather were (Pashas) of Egypt, his father was appointed minister in the era of Khedive Ismail, died when Zaki is still a young boy .

He was brought up by a friend of his father, Mustafa Najib , the father of the artist Suliman Najib (1892–1955), where a strong relationship started between him and some artists of the theatre at that time, including the artist Abdul Warith Assar (1894–1982).

His hobby of acting started when he was a student in the baccalaureate; in 1924 he joined the National theatre group, and in 1925 joined the Ramses theatre group.

Zaki Rostom took variety of roles with the strongest competitor in the “River of Love” and is also a loving father to his children humble in “I and my daughters,” The evil roles and excelled even his hatred of people and thought that it already is evil, but he is light as well as the roles that distinguish them gently in my heart, like a film role (Yasmin) in 1950.

Zaki Rostom played in a number of films including the “conflict in the valley” with Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama, also in the movie “River of Love”with same actors, and also in the film “Where I am with the artist Magda, and” I the past "with Faten Hamama, Imad Hamdi .

In his last 10 years of his life he suffered from hearing impairment and severe depression, he lived in isolation until suffering a heart attack; he died on February 16 of 1972 at the age of 68 years.

Abd El Fatah El Quossary (1905-1965) عبد الفتاح القصري, Abd El Moneim Ibrahim (1924-1987) عبد المنعم إبراهيم, Abd El Moneim Madbouly (1921-2006) عبدالمنعم مدبولي, Abd El Salam El Naboulsi (1899-1968) عبد السلام النابلسي, Ahmed Helmy (1969-present) أحمد حلمي, Ahmed Mazhar (1917-2002) أحمد مظهر, Ahmad Zaki (1949-200?) أحمد زكي, Aly El Kassar (1887-1957) علي الكسار, Amina Rizk (1910-2003) أمينة رزق, Amin Atallah (1880-19), Camellia (1919-1950), Emad Hamdy (1909-1984) عماد حمدي, Ezzel Dine Zulficar (1919-1963) عز الدين ذو الفقار, Ezzat Abou Aouf (1948-present) عزت أبو عوف‎‎, Farid al-Atrash (1915-1974) فريد الأطرش, Fatma Rouchdi (1908-1996) فاطمة رشدي, Fuad Al Mohandes (El Ostaz) (1924-2006) فؤاد المهندس, Hassan Fayeq (1898- 1980), Huda Sultan (1925-2006), Hussein Fahmy (1940-present), Hussein Riyad (1913-1965), Hussein Sedki (1917-1976), Kamal El Shinnawy (1921-present), Khaled Saleh (1964-present), Layla Fawzy (192?-2005), Lebleba (1945-present), Madiha Youssry (1921-present), Maha Sabry (19-19), Mahmoud El Meleeguy (1910-1983), Mahmoud Shekuku (1912-1985), Mahmoud Yassin (1942-present), Mary Queeny (1913-2003), Mervat Amin (1946-present), Mohamed Abdel Wahab (1991-1991), Mohamed Fawzy (1918-1966), Mounira El Mahdeya (1885–1965), Nabila Ebeid (1941-present), Nabila El Sayed (1938-19), Nadia El Guendy (1940-present), Nahed Sherief (1942-1981) ناهد شريف, Negma Ibrahim (1914-1976), Nelly Mazloum (1929-2003), Nelly (1949-present), Nour El-Sherif (1946-present), Raqiya Ibrahim (1919-19), Rushdy Abaza (1926-1980), Sabah (1921-present), Salah Zulfikkar (1926-1996), Samir Sabry (1932-present), Sanaa Gamil (1932-2002) سناء جميل ‎, Shalom (1900-19), Shwikar (1939-present), Tahiya Carioca(1920-1999), Tewfik El Dekken (1924-1988), Youssef Chaban (1936-present), Zeinat Sidqui (1913-1978), Zouzou Hamdy El-Hakim (1916-2003), *Zouzou Nabil (1920-1996)

Entertainment hasn’t exactly been the number one priority for Egyptians this year. Since the January revolution, the production line of local comedies that pack out auditoria in the capital and Alexandria, as well as in the Maghreb and across the Arab world, has been silent. That’s left a blockbuster-shaped hole to be plugged, and UMP, the sole distributor of American films in the country, is suddenly in the spotlight. Hollywood has an unprecedented chance to overturn the established order in a country with an formidable domestic film culture: roughly 80% of box office has traditionally gone to local films, and 20% to foreign ones.

Hollywood, surprisingly, hasn’t had things all its own way. Takings on US releases, which have included Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (UMP only handles Fox and Warner Bros movies), have dropped by nearly a third so far this year, from $8.8m in 2010 to $6.3m. That can be chalked up to the fact that the curfew in urban areas was only lifted in May, which has hit evening cinema-going.

Locally produced films suffered more, though: revenues have plunged from more than LE100m ($16.7m) in 2010 to less than LE20m up to July this year. Mostly sub-standard leftovers already in the can before the revolution, the summer slate was subjected to a critical monstering. Whipping boy of the summer was the actor Talaat Zakaria, who had denounced the Tahrir Square protestors, accusing some of them of being involved in drug abuse and prostitution. There were calls on Facebook and Twitter to boycott his new comedy, El Feel Fil Mandil (The Elephant in the Handkerchief), and it made a pathetic LE500,000.

Some observers saw a sea-change in the box-office fluctuations. Joseph Fahim, writing for the Daily News Egypt, noted that the Hollywood films had held up at the box office despite quotas that restrict them to no more than 10 prints of each film. “Egyptians, for the first time in the new century, have chosen foreign entertainment over subpar homegrown films,” he said, comparing the taste for escapism to the upswing in demand for musicals during the second world war. And, sure enough, the period from May to the beginning of Ramadan did see a slight increase (about $90,000 on the same period in 2010) in takings on US films.Phillip Hoad, The Guardian, 20.08.2011

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