Jules Dassin (right) with son Joe in Paris in 1970
December 18, 1911
Middletown, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||March 31, 2008
|Spouse(s)||Béatrice Launer (1937–1962; divorced)
Melina Mercouri (1966–1994; her death)
|Children||Joseph Ira Dassin
Julius "Jules" Dassin (December 18, 1911 – March 31, 2008) was an American film director. He was a subject of the Hollywood blacklist in the McCarthy era, and subsequently moved to France, where he revived his career.
Dassin was born in Middletown, Connecticut, one of eight children of Berthe Vogel and Samuel Dassin, a barber. His family was Russian Jewish. Dassin grew up in Harlem and went to Morris High School in the Bronx. He joined the Communist Party USA in the 1930s and left it after the Hitler–Stalin Pact in 1939. He started as a Yiddish actor with the ARTEF (Yiddish Proletarian Theater) company in New York. He collaborated on a film with Jack Skurnick that was incomplete because of Skurnick's early death.
In 1937 he married Beatrice Launer, with whom he had three children. In May 1955 he met Melina Mercouri at the Cannes Film Festival. At about the same time, he discovered the literary works of Nikos Kazantzakis. These two elements created a bond with Greece. He divorced Launer in 1962 and married Mercouri in 1966. The couple had to leave Greece after the colonels' coup in 1967. In 1970, they were accused of having financed an attempt to overthrow the dictatorship, but the charges were quickly dropped. Dassin and Mercouri lived in New York City during the 1970s; then, when the military dictatorship in Greece fell in 1974, they returned to Greece and lived out their lives there. While Mercouri became involved with politics and won a parliamentary seat, Dassin stayed with movie-making in Europe but found time in the U.S. to make another movie, the racial drama Uptight, which would be his last American film.
Dassin quickly became better known for his noir films Brute Force (1947), The Naked City (1948), and Thieves' Highway (1949), which helped him to become "one of the leading American filmmakers of the postwar era."
Dassin's most influential film was Rififi (1955), an early work in the "heist film" genre. It inspired later heist films, such as Ocean's Eleven (1960). Another piece it inspired was Dassin's own heist film Topkapi, filmed in France and Istanbul, Turkey with Melina Mercouri and Oscar winner Peter Ustinov.
Dassin said Darryl F. Zanuck in 1948 called him into his office to inform him he would be blacklisted, but he still had enough time to make a movie for Fox. Dassin was blacklisted in Hollywood during the production of Night and the City (1950). He was not allowed on the studio property to edit or oversee the musical score for the film. He also had trouble finding work abroad, as U.S. distribution companies blacklisted the U.S. distribution of any European film associated with artists blacklisted in Hollywood. In 1952, after Dassin had been out of work for two years, actress Bette Davis hired him to direct her in the Broadway revue Two's Company. The show closed early, however, and Dassin left for Europe. Dassin did not work as a film director again until Rififi in 1954 (a French production). Most of Dassin's films in the decades following the blacklist are European productions. His prolific later career in Europe and the affiliation with Greece through his second wife, combined with a common pronunciation of his surname as "Da-SAN" in Europe, as opposed to "DASS-in" in the United States leads to a common misconception that he was a European director.
Jules Dassin was married twice:
- Béatrice Launer, a New York–born, Jewish–American violinist (aka Beatrice Launer-Dassin; 1913–1994), a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. They married in 1937 and divorced in 1962. Their children were Joseph Ira Dassin, better known as Joe Dassin (1938–80), a popular French singer in the 1970s; songwriter Richelle "Rickie" Dassin (born 1940); and actress–singer Julie Dassin (born 1944; also known as Julie D.).
- Melina Mercouri, Greek actress and former wife of Panos Harokopos; they married in 1966 and remained married until Mercouri's death in 1994. She starred in several of Dassin's films.
Affiliation with Greece
He was considered a major Philhellene to the point of Greek officials describing him as a "first generation Greek." Along with his second wife Melina Mercouri, he opposed the Greek military junta. A major supporter of the return of the Elgin Marbles to Athens, for which he established the Melina Mercouri Institution in her memory, he missed the opening ceremony of the New Acropolis Museum by only a few months owing to his death at the age of 96. He died from complications from a case of flu; he is survived by his two daughters and his grandchildren.
Upon his death, the Greek prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, released a statement: "Greece mourns the loss of a rare human being, a significant artist and true friend. His passion, his relentless creative energy, his fighting spirit and his nobility will remain unforgettable."
Awards and honors
For his 1955 film Rififi, Dassin earned the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. His 1960 film Never on Sunday earned the music Academy Award (Manos Hadjidakis,(Greek: Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά), Ta Paidia tou Peiraia), and the Cannes Film Festival best actress award (Melina Mercouri). In 1982, he was a member of the jury at the 34th Berlin International Film Festival.
|1941||The Tell-Tale Heart||Yes|
|The Affairs of Martha||Yes|
|Reunion in France||Yes|
|1944||The Canterville Ghost||Yes|
|1946||Two Smart People||Yes|
|A Letter for Evie||Yes|
|1948||The Naked City||Yes|
|1950||Night and the City||Yes|
|1955||Rififi||Yes||Yes||Yes||César le Milanais|
|1957||He Who Must Die||Yes||Yes|
|1960||Never on Sunday||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Homer Thrace|
|1966||10:30 P.M. Summer||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1970||Promise at Dawn||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Ivan Mozzhukhin|
|1978||A Dream of Passion||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1980||Circle of Two||Yes|
- Luther, Claudia (April 1, 2008). "Noir master directed caper classic 'Rififi'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
- Cineaste, Dan Georgakas, spring 2007, p.72
- The film was shot in 1949, see Duncan, Paul (July 2, 2014). "Why I Love: Night and the City (1950)". Port. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
- Dassin, Jules (February 1, 2005). Night and the City (post-screening interview in DVD supplements). Criterion Collection.
- Beatrice Dassin. Genealogy Bank. Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
- The Juilliard School of Music, "The Baton", p. 12[dead link]
- Julie D.. Rateyourmusic.com (July 19, 1945). Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
- (Greek) Skai News, Απεβίωσε ο Ζυλ Ντασέν (Jules Dassin died), English (machine translation) Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
- Internet Movie Database, Pote tin Kyriaki (1960), Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
- "Berlinale: 1984 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jules Dassin.|
- Jules Dassin at the Internet Movie Database
- Family photos (French)
- Jules Dassin at The New York Times Movies
- New York Times obituary
- Obituary on the World Socialist Web Site
- Works by or about Jules Dassin in libraries (WorldCat catalog)