Sunday, January 18, 2015
I'm in transit, but when the plane touched down in Tokyo and my phone whirred back to life, I was faced with a downpour of sorrow from Cairo, for Egyptian film lovers have lost "The Lady of the Arab Screen," the incomparable Faten Hamama. This really is going to be a tough year for movie lovers, isn't it?
Hamama got her start as a child star just before the Second War, and by the time the Egyptian film industry was entering its fabled Golden Age in the '50s, she had nimbly made the transition to bewitching romantic lead. She was the idealized face of the modern Egyptian girl, bright and ambitious and looking both for love and something more. One of the something mores she found as the year went by was Omar Sharif, and together they made a series of sparking romantic comedies and flat out romances. My favorite is Sayyidat El Qasr (Lady of the Manor, more or less, in English), in which she's a charming girl in straitened circumstances who marries (way) up and has to learn the ways of he Great Wide world if she's going to hold a man as volatile as Omar Sharif.
When Sharif went Hollywood, Faten stayed home; international fame may have eluded her, but she remained one of the half-dozen of so toppest names in Arabic cinema as she gracefully segued into playing elegant mothers and women of the world, a total of more than 100 roles in film and television. She worked steadily until 1970 and occasionally thereafter, made a happy third marriage after things went south with Sharif, and every now and ten appeared for an interview to remind the world that glamor still lived by the Nile. As I suppose, somewhere, it must still do, although I think with her going it's a quality that grows ever more elusive.
I just hope Doris Day's taking care of herself - I can't take much more of this, and it not even out of January yet...