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This Week in History: September 4th to 10th

September 4, 2020

September 5th:

On this day in 1993, ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ actress Nia Vardalos married ‘Felicity’ actor Ian Gomez. Gomez converted to Greek Orthodoxy prior to marrying Vardalos. Vardalos’ hit romantic comedy was inspired by her romance with Gomez – who also starred in the film – and her real-life experience as a Canadian of Greek descent looking for love. The couple adopted their 3-yearold daughter, Ilaria, in 2008. However, on July 3, 2018, it was announced that Vardalos had filed for divorce from Gomez after 23 years of marriage and asked for joint legal and physical custody of their daughter. The reason cited was “irreconcilable differences.” The divorce was finalized nearly 6 months later.

September 7th:

On this day in 1909, Elia Kazan (né Elia Kazanjoglous), the Greek-American director, was born in Constantinople in present day Turkey. The child of ethnic Greeks with roots in Cappadocia, Kazan immigrated to New York City at the age of four with his parents. His father operated a rug business and eventually moved the family to New Rochelle. Kazan pursued a Master of Fine Arts in drama at Yale University and married one of his classmates, playwright Molly Day Thatcher (his first of three wives). Kazan was noted for his successes on the stage – especially with plays by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller – as well as for his critically acclaimed films and for his role in developing a “revolutionary style of acting that embodied psychological and behavioral truth.” Kazan influenced the films of the 1950s and 60s with his provocative, issue-driven subjects. Director Stanley Kubrick called him, “without question, the best director we have in America, [and] capable of performing miracles with the actors he uses.” Film author Ian Freer concluded that even “if his achievements are tainted by political controversy [alluding to his ties with communism and Marxism and then ‘naming names’ when his testifying against former comrades before Congress], the debt Hollywood – and actors everywhere – owes him is enormous.” In 2010, Martin Scorsese co-directed the documentary film A Letter to Elia as a personal tribute to Kazan. Kazan passed away in 2003 at the ripe age of 94 from natural causes.

September 9th:

On this day in 1922, Turkish troops conquered the city of Smyrna and murdered thousands of its Greek citizens. After the Turkish army inflicted heavy losses on the Greek army on August 30, the Greek forces were in continual retreat towards Smyrna as the Turkish army’s westward advance continued. After the Turks reached Smyrna, a mob murdered the Orthodox bishop Chrysostomos and thousands of other Christians. A few days later, the Great Fire of Smyrna burnt large parts of the city (including most of the Greek and Armenian areas). In Turkey, September 9 is considered a local holiday commemorating the ‘Liberation of Izmir’. Ataturk, who founded the Republican People’s Party, chose September 9, 1923 as the establishment date of his party as a reminder of the capture of Smyrna.

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