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Ahlan Arabic lovers! Last night on 17 January, 2015, a great and distinguished Egyptian and Arab figure left our world aged 83 years old. She was an actress that was given the nickname of “Lady of the Arabic Screen ســَـــيــدة الــشــاشــة الــعــربــيـــة“. She made her first performance when she was just seven years old in front of the famous Egyptian actor and musician مــحــمــد عــبــد الــوهــاب (Mohammad Abdel-Wahhab) in 1939.
Faten Hamama فــاتــن حــمــامـــة was an Egyptian renowned actress for the cinema and TV. She was also a producer. She participated in and starred about 106 artistic works between films and TV series. She is viewed as an icon of the Egyptian and Middle Eastern cinema. She played an important role in improving the cinema industry in Egypt. She also emphasized the importance of women in the cinema and in the Egyptian society.
Faten Hamama was born on 27 May, 1931 in Al-Mansoura, Egypt. Her father; Ahmad Hamama was a Muslim middle class employee of the Egyptian Ministry of Knowledge. Her artistic journey started at the age of six when her father took her to the theater to watch a film by آســيــا داغــر (Assia Dagher). At the end of the film and taken by the warm applaud, she told her father that she wants to be a film star and that she felt the audience were applauding for her as the leading actress. Then, she won the competition of children’s beauty pageant in Egypt. Later on, her father saw an advertisement seeking a child actress. He sent his daughter’s photo and she was chosen to perform in front of مــحــمــد عــبــد الــوهــاب (Mohammad Abdel-Wahhab) in her first film; يــوم ســعــيــد (A Happy Day, 1939). She impressed the filmmakers to the extent that they modified the scenario to give her extra lines and scenes. The director chose her again to act with Abdel-Wahhab in the film of رصــاصــة فــي الــقــلــب (A Bullet in the Heart, 1944) and in a third film called دنــيـــا (Dunia, 1946). After her success, her parents moved to Cairo to help her with her work and study. She joined the High Institute of Acting in 1946.
The talent of Faten Hamama drew the attention of many famous cinema figures. In 1946, the famous actor and director يــوســف وهــبــي (Youssef Wahbi) gave her a leading role in his film مــلاك الــرحــمــة (Angel of Mercy). She was 15 years old. The film was a success and Faten gained more and more fans by her melodramatic performance. She was given roles with Wahbi in three more films; الــيــتــيــمــيــن (The Two Orphans, 1948), ســت الــبــيــت (The Lady of the House, 1948) and كــرســي الإعــتــراف (The Chair of Confession, 1949) which were all successful.
The 1950s witnessed the golden age of the Egyptian cinema. Faten worked with the director صــلاح أبــو ســيــف (Salah Abu-Seif) in his first realism picture film; لـك يــوم يــا ظــالــم (Your Day Shall Come, 1952) which was a box-office film that was nominated at the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival مــهــرجــان كــان الــســيــنــمــائــي الــدولــي in France for the Prix International Award. She also played a lead role in يــوســف شــاهــيــن (Youssef Shahin)’s film صــراع فــي الــوادي (Conflict in the Valley, 1954) which was also a strong nominee at the Cannes International Film Festival. She played a lead role in the first Egyptian mystery film مــنــزل رقــم 13 (House Number 13, 1963). She received an award for her role in the political film لا وقــت لـلــحــب (No Time for Love). Moreover, Faten Hamama excelled in comedy and this was shown during her astonishing role of a lawyer woman who struggles to prove her job capabilities in the film of الــمــحــامــيــة فــاطــمــة (Lawyer Fatmah, 1952).
Faten worked with nearly all the Egyptian cinema star actors and famous directors. She was married to the director عــز الــديــن ذو الــفــقــار (Ezzul-Deen Thul-Faqqar) in 1947 while shooting the film أبــو زيـــد الــهــلالــي (Abu-Zeid Al-Hilaly). Thul-Faqqar was known as the king of romantic movies. Together, they formed a production company and made so many famous romantic films. One of these films was مــوعــد مــع الــحــيـــاة (An Appointment with Life, 1954). Critics voted this film as Film of the Year and it was because her role in that film that she was given her nickname; Lady of the Arabic Screen. Although they were divorced in 1954, they continued to work together and most of their works are considered classics of the Egyptian romantic cinema like that film that is widely considered as their masterpiece; نــهــر الــحــب (The River of Love, 1962). The film was the Egyptian version of Tolstoy’s great story ‘Anna Karenina’ and Faten starred it opposite عــمــر الــشــريــف (Omar Al-Shareif).
From 1955 to 1974, Faten was married to the internationally-famous Hollywood actor Omar Al-Shareif and both of them became the most famous romantic couples of the Egyptian cinema. They appeared together in so many films until they got divorced. Despite the divorce, Omar continued to love Faten and he never forgot her. He made a very famous statement about his love to her saying that he only married once because he only loved once and that was Faten.
Faten left Egypt to live in both Lebanon and London for some time in her life (1966 – 1971) because of political reasons at the time of Gamal Abdel-Nasser who did some efforts to get her back asking many famous critics and writers to try to convince her back. Nasser said that; “Faten Hamama is a national treasure.” He granted her the Decoration of Republic of First Degree for Art in 1965.
Faten came back to Egypt in 1971 and insisted that her films reflect the values of the society at the time. Her role in the film إمــبــراطــوريــة م (The Empire M, 1972) as a working widow with six children struggling to raise them and bring them up on the ethics and values of the society, earned her a special award from a Soviet Union women organization when the film was shown at the Moscow International Film Festival. Her film أريــد حـــلاً (I Want a Solution, 1975) was not only a big hit but resulted in changes to Egyptian marriage and divorce civil laws. Faten won the Best Actress award at the Cairo International Film Festival and a Prize of Recognition at the Tehran (Iran) Film Festival and the Best Actress Award in the Carthage International Film Festival in Tunisia. She also won an Honorary PhD. from the American University of Cairo in 1999 and another Honorary Doctorate from the American University of Beirut in 2013.
Faten soon became the highest-paid actress in Egyptian cinema and remained so until her final feature film أرض الأحــلام (Land of Dreams, 1993) and her TV series وجــه الــقــمــر (Face of the Moon, 2000). She will always be remembered for the many personalities she played. Rest in Peace, Faten.
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Peace ســـلام /Salam/