Friday, June 24, 2005

Mahmoud al-Meligi (1910-1983)

The dean of Egyptian gangsters, classy and menacing. The great Mahmoud al-Meligi was eons more sophisticated than his frequent bad guy co-star Farid Shawqi, cultivating that unique ice-cold, heartless gangster persona that he had, never without a devilish sense of irony. I love how he clobbered the good guys but always came out unruffled in his meticulous 3-piece suit. Too gifted to be typecast, Meligi went on to play his most memorable role as the downtrodden, heroic fellah Abu Swaylam in Youssef Chahine’s masterpiece al-Ard (The Land, 1969). A class act until the very end, he played the earthy, wry grandfather in Chahine’s autobiographical Eskendriyya Leh? (Alexandria…Why?, 1978). It’s a quiet, powerful performance, a fitting end to an illustrious and artful career.

*All photos from Mustafa Darwish, Dream Makers on the Nile (1998)