Born in Alexandria, Fatima Rushdi moved to Cairo aged fourteen to become an actress. Without any formal training, and speaking only Arabic, she started her own theatrical troupe in 1926, which travelled throughout North Africa. The theater director `Aziz `Id fell in love with her and enabled her to learn to read and write. She became known as the "Bernhardt of the Orient" for reprising many of Sarah Bernhardt's famous roles.
Her first film appearance was in Ibrahim Lama's second film, Faji`a Fawq Al-Haram / Disaster on the Pyramids (1928). In 1933 she directed her first and only film, al-Zarwaj / The Wedding, which premiered in Paris. No surviving copies are known, and in her 1970 memoir she claimed to have burned the completed film. The film featured her as a woman pushed into an unhappy marriage by her father, and dying tragically at the end. She acted in several films by Kamal Selim, including the 'realist' al-`Azima / Determination (1939), where she played a young working-class girl falling in love with the neighbour's son. Her last screen appearance was in 1955, in a secondary role in Ahmad Diya` al-Din's Da`uni A`ish / Let Me Live.
- Leaman, Oliver (2003). "Rushdi, Fatima (b. 1908, Alexandria)". Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Routledge. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-134-66252-4.
- Rebecca Hillauer (2005). Encyclopedia of Arab Women Filmmakers. American Univ in Cairo Press. pp. 30–1. ISBN 978-977-424-943-3.
- Landau, Jacob M. (1958). Studies in the Arab Theater and Cinema. Routledge. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-317-24627-5.
- Cathlyn Mariscotti (2008). Gender and Class in the Egyptian Women's Movement, 1925–1939: Changing Perspectives. Syracuse University Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-8156-3170-5.