Jules Dassin

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Joe and Jules Dassin 1970

Jules Dassin, actually Julius Dassin (born December 18, 1911 in Middletown , Connecticut , † March 31, 2008 in Athens ) was an American film director , screenwriter , producer and actor . After initial success in Hollywood , he went into European exile during the McCarthy era , where he continued his career. His best-known films include Rififi and Sundays ... never!


Jules Dassin was the son of Samuel Dassin, a Russian - Jewish immigrant, and Berthe Vogel. After the family moved to New York , he grew up with seven siblings in Harlem . He joined the political left , Yiddish theater group "ArteF" (Arbeter Theater Farband) to where he later was active only as an actor as a director, and the "Group Theater". In the 1930s he became a member of the Communist Party of the USA , from which he left again in 1939, disappointed with the Hitler-Stalin Pact . In 1940 Dassin first directed Broadway and wrote contributions to radio broadcasts.

In 1941 Dassin made his debut as a film director at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio . After his falling out with MGM boss Louis B. Mayer , he shot the film noirs cell R 17 and city ​​without a mask for producer Mark Hellinger and Universal Pictures . After Hellinger's untimely death, Dassin moved to 20th Century Fox and directed another film noir, Danger in Frisco . The beginning of McCarthyism put an end to his career in the USA. As early as 1949, Dassin was targeted by anti-communist investigations because of his political past , which is why Fox production director Darryl F. Zanuck Dassin had his next film, The Rat of Soho , shot in London . Dassin was no longer able to edit the film himself because he was denied entry to the studio premises in Hollywood. The director passed the editing instructions on by phone or memo. When it opened in the cinema, the critics were harshly judged with The Rat from Soho , today it is considered one of Dassin's strongest works.

1951 denounced Elia Kazan and Edward Dmytryk Dassin to the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). With no prospect of employment in the American film business, Dassin went to Europe with his family. There, too, he was only able to make a film again after five years, as the American side put pressure on the European producers, who feared that his films would not be distributed in the USA. In 1955 he took over the work on his first European film only out of financial difficulties. The gangster film Rififi , shot in France , was a great hit with both critics and audiences. Dassin not only wrote the script and directed, but also played one of the four main roles under the pseudonym Perlo Vita, as the intended actor did not appear for the filming. For Rififi , Dassin received the award for best director at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival . The famous break-in scene, which does not exist in the original, was quoted, imitated and parodied several times in other films, including by Dassin himself in Topkapi .

In 1955 he met the Greek actress Melina Mercouri in Cannes . The following year she starred in his film The Man Who Must Die, based on Nikos Kazantzakis ' novel Greek Passion (Ο Χριστός ξανασταυρώνεται) . Dassin also shot the great international successes on Sundays with Mercouri ... never! (1960) and Topkapi (1964).

Dassin and Mercouri married in 1966. After the military coup and the seizure of power by the Colonel regime in Greece, both went into exile in Paris .

Dassin's later films were neither commercial nor artistic. In 1968 he returned to the United States for the film Black Power . That same year, Dassin also worked on Broadway and became the director and screenwriter of the musical version of Sonntags ... nie! nominated for two Tony Awards .

From 1974, after the end of the military dictatorship, Dassin and Mercouri lived again in his adopted country of Greece. In 1992 he was granted honorary citizenship. After the death of his wife in 1994 he founded the “Melina Mercouri Foundation” and campaigned for the return of the Parthenon frieze from London to Athens. The new Acropolis Museum , which he helped initiate , was opened in 2009. Dassin did not live to see the opening: he died at the age of 96 in the Hygeia hospital in Athens. According to his wishes, he was buried next to Melina Mercouri in the First Athens Cemetery.


The popular French chanson singer Joe Dassin (1938–1980) and daughters Richelle (* 1940) and Julie (* 1944) came from his first marriage, divorced in 1962, to the Hungarian violinist Béatrice Launer .


Awards (selection)

Web links


  • Norbert Grob , Bernd Kiefer: [Article] Jules Dassin. In: Thomas Koebner (Ed.): Film directors. Biographies, descriptions of works, filmographies. With 109 illustrations. Reclam, Stuttgart 2008 [3. updated and expanded edition, 1st edition 1999], ISBN 978-3-15-010662-4 , pp. 167–170.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f David Walsh : Jules Dassin, victim of the anti-communist witch-hunt, dies at 96 , article on the World Socialist Web Site of April 3, 2008, accessed February 18, 2013.
  2. ^ John Wakeman: World Film Directors: Volume One 1890 * 1945. The HW Wilson Company, New York 1987, p. 190.
  3. ^ A b Geoff Mayer: Historical Dictionary of Crime Films. Scarecrow Press, 2012, pp. 106-108.
  4. Richard Natale: Director Jules Dassin dies at 96. American expatriate helmed 'Rififi,' 'Naked City' , article in Variety, March 31, 2008, accessed February 18, 2013.
  5. Andrew Spicer: Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Scarecrow Press, Lanham (Maryland) 2010, p. 67.
  6. ↑ Additional material on the DVD release of Night and the City, Criterion Collection , USA 2005.
  7. ^ Film director Jules Dassin dies , article on bbc.co.uk dated April 1, 2008, accessed on February 18, 2013.
  8. a b Angelike Contis: Greece loses adoptive son Jules Dassin  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as broken. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Athens News article, April 4, 2008, accessed February 18, 2013.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.athensnews.gr  
  9. ^ A b Richard Severo: Jules Dassin, Filmmaker on Blacklist, Dies at 96 , New York Times article, April 1, 2008, accessed February 18, 2013.
  10. knerger.de: The grave of Jules Dassin