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Culture

Zorba the Greek and Anthony Quinn Thrill Again in NY

 

NYC GREEK FILM FESTIVAL THROUGH OCT. 20

NEW YORK – Anthony Quinn was born one hundred years ago. The man who comes to mind when people think of the quintessential Greek. The birth took place not in Greece, but in Chihuahua, Mexico, and not in a Greek immigrant community, but to parents of Mexican and Irish stock.

Records list him as Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca. In Hollywood, he was Anthony Quinn, but the world knows him as Zorba the Greek.

On September 25 his life and work were commemorated with a special screening in Manhattan of the beautifully restored Zorba the Greek presented by the National Hellenic Society (NHS), the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and the NYC Greek Film Festival in association with the Anthony Quinn Foundation.

The celebration of the centenary of Quinn’s birth was graced by Katherine Benvin Quinn, who was his personal assistant and became his third wife in 1997. She has devoted herself to the perpetuation of her husband’s memory through the Foundation and was accompanied at the screening by one of their two children, Antonia Patricia Rose Quinn.

The movie again moved guests regardless of how many times they had seen it. They nodded in assent when Quinn’s daughter noted later that every time she views it, more of the depth director Michael Cakoyannis film and Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel is revealed.

While Alan Bates’ work as Zorba’s charge leaves much to be desired, Quinn’s performance was incandescent. Katherine Quinn noted during Q & A that her husband and Cakoyannis battled over the role, but the director later conceded that the actor’s intuition was on the money.

It will come as a surprise to no one that Walter Lassally won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. The opening shots of Crete are breathtaking, and the rest pulls the audience into a fascinating, long-gone world. Irene Pappas’ portrayal of “The widow” is spellbinding.

The audience was greeted by attorney Art Dimopoulos, NHS’ Executive Director, and James DeMetro, the Executive Director of the NYC Greek Film Festival that runs from October 2 to 25.

The Best of the NYC Greek Film Festival will be presented in Boston Nov. 3-5 and Katherine Quinn will be present at a free screening of Zorba . For more information visit www.nycgreekfilmfestival.com.

Dr. Apostolos Pappas, biochemist and cinephile, moderated the Q&A that followed the screening and shared his encyclopedic knowledge of the live and work of Quinn with the audience.

In a parallel universe, where Quinn had taken the role of the Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather – he was among those considered for the role – was offered to him here, is he considered the archetypal Italian? Highly doubtful, because what others feel about him, Quinn felt about himself: Greekness resonates deep in his soul.

Renaissance Man is as good a label as passionate man for Quinn, but the pull of art, which fascinated him his entire life – drawings and paintings were interspersed with stills from his movies on the big screen during the tribute – drew him into the orbit of Frank Lloyd Wright, who was his architecture teacher and then his friend.

Wright encouraged Quinn when roles came, and when he was offered $800 a week to appear in a film, Wright said to him: “Take it, you’ll never make that much with me,” Katherine Quinn said.

Quinn’s personal life was as volatile and passionate as the characters he played in films and Katherine Quinn confirmed that “the characters he played represent so many of his qualities,” emphasizing his humanity, his love of people, and his passionate relationships with women.

Quinn is said to have portrayed more than 20 ethnic groups in his movies, but his many turns as a Greek, besides Zorba, including in The Guns of Navarone and as Aristotle Onassis in The Last Tycoon, stand out. He also played opposite Irene Pappas seven times.

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