Obituary: Dmitri Horn
Monday 26 January 1998
The actor Dimitri Horn was one of the leading lights behind the New Wave movement in Greece. He led a charmed existence; wars and Greece's numerous political upheavals seemed to pass him by. Yet, as the years rolled on, his financial ease, Olympian talent, Romeo looks and endless admirers couldn't quite help him overcome a maudlin view of life.
He was born in Athens in 1921, to a theatrical family. Aged six months he took part - in his godmother's arms - in one of his father's plays. At 17 he entered the drama school of the Athens Royal Theatre; his classmates consisted only of women, including the future diva Melina Mercouri. His teachers, some of the greatest names of the day in Greek theatre, spoilt him because of his talent and his charm. Other friends included Manolis Hadjidakis, the composer of "Never on Sunday".
His professional career began during the Second World War, while Athens was under Nazi occupation. He concentrated on performing quality roles in classical plays, and took his first steps in films.
From 1945, he introduced to a broad public a string of English plays such as Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, and a Shakespearean repertoire including Richard II and The Taming of the Shrew. In the early 1950s he came to London on a British Council grant to study new drama techniques.
Back in Greece, he met the actress Elli Lambeti, whose sensuous beauty and premature death haunt Greece to this day. They fell in love, separated from their previous partners and started living and acting together. Together, they helped break many taboos of Greek society, both on film, especially in The Girl in Black (1955), and in real life. Their liveliness elevated the Greek notion of glendi (a high-spirited Greek way of painting the town red) to new heights.
It was no secret that, happy or unhappy, Horn could never resist the opposite sex. However, when Lambeti left him in 1960, he was devastated.
Even though he disliked the cinema, it is through such films (made until 1961) as Forged Sovereign and Pity the Young that he will be remembered. In the latter he plays an old man who sells his soul to the Devil in order to woo the woman he loved when young. The intensity of his acting was mellowed by a certain melancholy temperament.
Theatre was his great love. He opened the eyes of a string of Greek actors: "What they say about the actor having to get under the skin of the part is wrong; if that was the case we would all be performing the same way. It is the part which gets under the actor's skin," he said.
In the late 1960s, he abandoned acting and married the shipping heiress Anna Goulandris. Together they created the Goulandris-Horn Foundation in 1980 which promotes Greek art and publishing; it is this that is Dmitri Horn's legacy to young Greek creativity today.
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