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Films put Greece on movie map

- by Jeremy Guest

Since the 1960s, Greece and the Greek Islands have set the scene for any number of international and Hollywood movies.Greece and the Greek islands have given a very warm welcome to many celebrity movie stars over the years.

The curtain rose on the Greek island connection with the film and movie industry way back in 1957 when Italian star Sophia Loren sailed into the Greek island of Hydra to film scenes for the movie 'Boy on a Dolphin'.

Although parts were also filmed in Athens, Rhodes and Delos, it was Hydra that was chosen as the main setting for this love romance movie.

The film tells of of penniless Phaedra (Sophia Loren) who discovers sunken treasure while out diving. Her unscrupulous boyfriend (Clifton Webb) wants to sell the find – a gold statuette of a boy on a dolphin – on the black market, while honest archaeologist (Alan Ladd) wants to hand it over to the Greek authorities.

It was only three years later that a film based in the Athens port of Piraeus, began to put Greece on the international movie map. 'Never on Sunday' told the tale of Piraeus prostitute, Ilya (Melina Mercouri), and included Greek dance and music with a bouzouki signature tune than earned composer Manos Hadjidakis an Academy Award.

The 1957 novel 'Guns of Navarone' was turned into a big budget Hollywood film in 1961. The movie, made on the island of Rhodes, starred Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn as Allied commandos on a mission to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress.

David Niven became severely ill during shooting and the project was almost abandoned. The film eventually became a major box office success, netting $18.5m and picking up a Golden Globe for Best Picture.

But it was 'Zorba the Greek', filmed in 1964, and starring Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates, that put the Greek islands firmly on the movie making map, picking up three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Much of the movie was filmed in Crete, in the town of Chania and on the beaches in the Apokrounos and Akrotiri regions.

The movie tells how the life of an uptight English writer (Alan Bates) is transformed by the lusty, life-loving Greek peasant Zorba (Anthony Quinn). Both the music and the dance sequences have since become a cliché of Greece and Greek life.

The famous scene in Zorba dances the sirtakito the movie's signature tune was shot on the beach at Stavros.

A Broadway musical 'Zorba' followed in 1968 and notched up 305 performances and a nomination for the 1969 Best Musical Tony Award.