Thursday, June 26, 2008

MM in the ME

Egyptians, if I may generalize, have a movie jones akin to that of your average Chelsea boy who's seen one too many Thelma Ritter picture.

Mr. Muscato can be watching a 50s film on one of the Arabic movie channels (imagine a world with ten equivalents of TCM - that's Arabic satellite TV). I'll idly look up and ask, of some second or third lead in the background, "Who's that?" - and he's off, reeling off film titles, husbands, lovers, children... invariably ending with either "she's dead" (with backstory), "she took the veil" (with resigned expression), or "you saw her last week on that soap opera" (ditto, but at my stupidity).

Even I, though can always pick out a few stars - and one of them, most definitely, is Hind Rostom, who reigned throughout the 50s and 60s as "the Egyptian Marilyn Monroe."

There is actually some resemblance, mostly in the blondeness and in a certain vulnerable appeal. Hind, though, was made of much sturdier stuff than Norma Jeane.

She made dozens of movies, things like 1965's Immortal Love. In the poster, I think she looks less like Marilyn than like Patti Lupone playing Florence Henderson (now there's a script idea for someone!):

She did a good Magnani-esque smolder:

She's known in the West, insofar as she is at all, for playing a waif (well, a sexy waif) in 1958's Cairo Station, directed by Youssef Chahine, an auteur whose reputation is much greater in Europe than it is in Egypt.

Egyptians seem to like her best in less arty pictures, things like Shafiqa the Copt, a biopic in which she got to play a glam dancer and get the full 60s star treatment:

Remarkably, Rostom escaped the three fates (death, veil, soap operas), retiring at the top in the mid-70s, wanting her fans to remember her as she was. She still makes the very occasional appearance at this event or that.

Do you suppose this gives us an idea what a happy, older MM might have looked like?

As thoroughly demento as it can be, in some ways Hollywood on the Nile seems to have been a better place for its inhabitants than that other one...

Hind's movie posters courtesy of Movie Poster Collecting, part of the Movie Poster Page. They're fabulous!

1 comment:

  1. lol at "Patti Lupone playing Florence Henderson."

    (and yes, I'd pay to see that)