Remembering Mariam Fakhr Eddine: Romantic cinema icon

Ashraf Gharib, Friday 4 Jan 2019

Mariam Fakhr Eddine inhabited the role of the sweet, romantic girl on the silver screen in the 1950s

Mariam Fakhr Eddine
Mariam Fakhr Eddine

At a time when romanticism had a strong presence in Egyptian cinema, Mariam Fakhr Eddine was one of its most prominent female stars.

However, when this trend faded in the last four decades of her life, her presence and her artistic imprint became less sharp. In brief, this is the professional path of Egyptian cinema’s romantic icon.

Fakhr Eddine was born in Fayoum governorate on 8 January 1933 to an Egyptian father and an Austrian mother, and attended the German School in Cairo.

She found her place before the cameras due to the beauty of her face, although Faten Hamama, Shadia, Laila Fawzi, Magda and other actresses occupied the forefront of film posters. Despite all that, the 18-year-old managed to find a place among those big names and in a short time became the paragon of soft performance and quiet romanticism.

She participated in “the most beautiful face” contest organised by Image, a French-language magazine that used to be published by Dar Al-Hilal Publishing House.

Abdel-Halim Nasr, the cinematographer and producer, and the director Ahmed Badrkhan then chose Fakhr Eddine to play the leading role in A Passionate Night (1951), adapted from a novel by Mohammed Abdel-Halim Abdullah titled Foundling. After an accelerated rate of acting in films in the following three years, it became evident that she was suitable for cinema. Then an opportunity materialised, when she acted alongside one of the stars of the time, the singer Farid Al-Atrash, as the leading lady in Love Letter (1954, directed by Bartakat). As a result, filmmakers’ began to acknowledge of her capability to take on the role of leading lady.

At that stage, cineastes benefitted from her facial features and her quiet performance and persisted in giving her the roles of the innocent, good-natured woman, as a contrasting example to the seductive femme fatale. She played this role in Love Crime (1955, Atef Salem) in contrast to Hind Rostom, in The Sound of the Anklet (1955, Mahmoud Zulfikar) in contrast to Berlanti Abdel-Hamid, and in I Can’t sleep (1957, Salah Abu-Seif) again opposite Hind Rostom, and in Tahra (1957, Fateen Abdel-Wahab and Mahmoud Ismail).

With the trend of romanticism rising in the mid-1950s thanks to directors like Ezzeddine Zulfikar, Henri Barakat, Helmy Halim and others, Fakhr Eddine took on one of the most famous romantic roles, that of Princess Ingy, who fell in love with Ali, the gardener's son, in My Heart is Restored to Life (1957, Ezzeddine Zulfikar) adapted from an eponymous novel by Youssef Al-Sibai.

The film's love story became one of the most successful on the Egyptian silver screen. She then went on to act in A Love Tale (1959, Helmy Halim) along with one of the romantic stars at the time, Abdel Halim Hafez, I have No One But You with Farid Al-Atrash (1958, Barakat), Sunset Rendezvous with Rushdy Abaza as the male lead (1960, Saad Arafa). By the early 1960s, Fakhr Eddine had come to inhabit the image of the romantic girl on the silver screen.

However, the 1960s brought a tangible change in audiences' tastes due to social and psychological changes imposed by the 1952 Revolution. The calm, helpless, even wretched girl character was unwelcome, and instead the gates were thrown open for strong women roles represented by newcomers such as Lubna Abdel-Aziz, Nadia Lotfy and Soad Hosni.

This societal and cinematic change affected Fakhr Eddine; her inability to develop her choices or adapt in order to suit this stage was in sharp contrast to Faten Hamama, who skilfully ran adapted to the new roles. Fakhr Eddine’s most notable moves in this period were A Groom for my Sister (1963, Ahmed Diaa-Eddine), Waheeda (1961, Mohamed Kamel Hassan), Remains of a Virgin (1962, Hossam Eddine Mostafa), and Soft Hands (1963, Mahmoud Zulfikar).

However, from 1963 to 1968, she virtually disappeared from screens, moving to Lebanon. She did make a few appearances in films there, especially during her marriage to Syrian singer Fahd Ballan.

On her return to Egypt, she underwent a major artistic transformation, moving on to maternal roles. She was only 36 years old in her first mother role, in The Well of Deprivation (1969, Kamal El-Sheikh), playing Soad Hosni’s mother, although the real age difference between the two was less than a decade. At the time, she gained audiences' and critics' respect for boldly transcending her time as principal.

In this mould, Fakhr Eddine found success through the 1960s and into the early 1970s. It remained her favourite type of role, with all its variations, until the end of her career with the advent of the new millennium, although her choices were confined to aristocratic mothers. Her noticeable films during this period include The Beggar (1973, Hossam Eddine Mostafa), Barefoot on a Golden Bridge (1976, Atef Salem), The Virgin and the White Hair (1983, Hussein Kamal), The Prince (1984, Fadel Saleh), and her final film, One Cappuccino (2005, Sameeh Al-Mansy).

In the 1990s, she tried to present herself in comic roles, as in To Love or Rise Above (1994, Abdel-Latif Zaki), but she soon reverted to more dramatic roles, and remained in those roles until the end of her career. As with the other actresses of her generation, she moved to TV series in the final quarter of century of her career. Afterwards, she succumbed to senility and imposed isolation, until her death on 3 November 2014 at the age of 81.

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