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HISTORY

About a year after Nikos Kazantzakes’s novel Zorba the Greek was translated into English and published in the U.S., the 9 Mar 1954 DV announced that Burt Lancaster was interested in adapting the work for a theatrical stage play. Articles in the 5 Jan 1955 DV and 9 Sep 1956 NYT revealed that Lancaster and his agent, Harold Hecht, held the stage and screen rights for their joint production company, Hecht-Lancaster Productions, for several years. However, a 13 Apr 1956 NYT news item announcing the company’s extended contract with United Artists (UA) made no mention of the property among their future productions.
       Two years later, a 17 Dec 1958 Var item indicated that the rights had passed to UA executive Max Youngstein. Development did not get underway for another five years, when the 3 Jul 1963 Var announced that UA had allocated funds for both production and distribution. Michael Cacoyannis agreed to direct, and was in discussions with French actress Marie Bell. While Anthony Quinn agreed to sign for the title role, the 27 Nov 1963 Var claimed Cacoyannis would continue his casting search in London, England, and Paris, France.
       On 25 Feb 1964, DV reported that UA was already satisfied with its busy production slate and agreed to pass the project on to Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. A spokesman for UA also noted that the decision may have been influenced by Anthony Quinn’s contract, which stipulated that the actor would need to complete filming by Jun 1964 to avoid conflict with the start of his Fox film, ... More Less

About a year after Nikos Kazantzakes’s novel Zorba the Greek was translated into English and published in the U.S., the 9 Mar 1954 DV announced that Burt Lancaster was interested in adapting the work for a theatrical stage play. Articles in the 5 Jan 1955 DV and 9 Sep 1956 NYT revealed that Lancaster and his agent, Harold Hecht, held the stage and screen rights for their joint production company, Hecht-Lancaster Productions, for several years. However, a 13 Apr 1956 NYT news item announcing the company’s extended contract with United Artists (UA) made no mention of the property among their future productions.
       Two years later, a 17 Dec 1958 Var item indicated that the rights had passed to UA executive Max Youngstein. Development did not get underway for another five years, when the 3 Jul 1963 Var announced that UA had allocated funds for both production and distribution. Michael Cacoyannis agreed to direct, and was in discussions with French actress Marie Bell. While Anthony Quinn agreed to sign for the title role, the 27 Nov 1963 Var claimed Cacoyannis would continue his casting search in London, England, and Paris, France.
       On 25 Feb 1964, DV reported that UA was already satisfied with its busy production slate and agreed to pass the project on to Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. A spokesman for UA also noted that the decision may have been influenced by Anthony Quinn’s contract, which stipulated that the actor would need to complete filming by Jun 1964 to avoid conflict with the start of his Fox film, A High Wind in Jamaica (1965, see entry).
       Principal photography began 9 Mar 1964, according to a DV production chart published four days later. A 4 Nov 1964 Var article stated that filming took place entirely on the Greek island of Crete, and estimated a total negative cost of $750,000. The 21 Apr 1965 Var cited a figure closer to $800,000.
       Shortly after shooting began, forty-three-year-old actress Simone Signoret withdrew from the role of “Madame Hortense.” While Signoret told the 26 Jul 1964 LAT that she was very impressed by the old-age makeup designed for her character, the 15 Apr 1964 DV claimed she doubted her ability to provide a satisfactory performance as an older woman. She and Cacoyannis amicably agreed to find another actress, and Lila Kedrova took her place. A 22 Apr 1964 Var news story stated Signoret did not accept payment for her brief participation.
       Several contemporary sources, including the 20 Apr 1964 LAT, suggested that Pia Lindström (daughter of actress Ingrid Bergman) had been cast in a minor role, but she did not appear in the final film.
       Mark Nichols served as the unit publicity director, and a 9 Apr 1964 DV item reported that Israeli writer and politician Yael Dayan was in charge of European press relations. A 1 Apr 1964 Var brief noted that still photographer Sam Shaw also visited the set in Crete. According to the 7 Dec 1964 LAT, composer and conductor Mikis Theodorakis was a resident of Crete and also served as a member of Greek Parliament.
       Post-production was completed in London, and a 25 Nov 1965 Var brief announced that a special press screening would be held there for American journalists on 7 Dec 1964. Back in the U.S., Fox initiated a brief engagement 16—22 Dec 1964 at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, CA, to qualify for Academy Award consideration. A 13 Dec 1964 NYT events calendar listed a New York City opening of 17 Dec 1964, at the Sutton Theater. By spring, the 21 Apr 1965 Var speculated that the filmmakers would earn back their entire budget from New York City earnings alone. The 28 Jan 1965 LAT reported that the regular Los Angeles release was scheduled to begin the following day at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA, where it enjoyed critical and commercial popularity throughout the summer. Items in the 31 Mar 1965 Var and 7 Apr 1965 DV indicated openings in other cities such as Chicago, IL, and San Francisco, CA, in late Mar—early Apr 1965.
       On 11 Mar 1965, DV revealed the picture was selected as the U.S. entry at the Argentine Film Festival. Six days later, Var reported that Michael Cacoyannis and Anthony Quinn had been honored with medals from the Greek government during a ceremony in Paris. Zorba the Greek won three Academy Awards for Actress in a Supporting Role (Lila Kedrova), Art Direction (Black-and-White), and Cinematography (Black-and-White), and received additional nominations for Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium), Actor (Anthony Quinn), Directing, and Best Picture.
       In the wake of its success, a stage musical based on both the film and Kazantzakes’s novel debuted at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre on 16 Nov 1966. The adaptation was nominated for eight Tony Awards (winning one), and inspired a revival at the Broadway Theatre in 1983, with Anthony Quinn and Lila Kedrova reprising their onscreen roles. Kedrova’s rendition earned her a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1954
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1955
p. 9.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1964
p. 6.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
13 Mar 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1964
p. 6.
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1964
p. 6.
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1964
p. 6.
Daily Variety
11 Mar 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1965.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1964
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jun 1964
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
4 Dec 1964
Section E, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
7 Dec 1964
Section B, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1964
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jan 1965
Section C, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1965
Section C, p. 9.
New York Times
19 Apr 1953
Section BR, p. 4.
New York Times
13 Apr 1956
p. 20.
New York Times
9 Sep 1956
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
13 Dec 1964
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
18 Dec 1964
p. 25.
Variety
17 Dec 1958
p. 4.
Variety
3 Jul 1963
p. 14.
Variety
27 Nov 1963
p. 18.
Variety
26 Feb 1964
p. 36.
Variety
1 Apr 1964
p. 86.
Variety
22 Apr 1964
p. 11.
Variety
4 Nov 1964
p. 22.
Variety
25 Nov 1964
p. 3.
Variety
17 Mar 1965
p. 6.
Variety
31 Mar 1965.
---
Variety
21 Apr 1965
p. 1, 70.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Michael Cacoyannis Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coordinator
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakes (translated by Carl Wildman of Bios kai politeiatou Alexe Zormba
London, 1952).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Zormba
Release Date:
16 December 1964
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening for Academy Award consideration: 16 December 1964
New York opening: 17 December 1964
Los Angeles opening: 29 January 1965
Production Date:
began 9 March 1964
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 December 1964
Copyright Number:
LP30833
Duration(in mins):
142
Countries:
Greece, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Basil, an introverted English writer, comes to Greece to work on a lignite mine he has inherited from his Greek father. He meets an exuberant Greek peasant, Zorba, who persuades Basil to hire him to help work on the mine. They arrive on Crete and take up lodging in a hotel owned by Madame Hortense, an old French courtesan. Zorba courts Madame Hortense and persuades Basil to court another woman, a beautiful widow. Zorba goes to the city for a spree and leaves Basil to take care of Madame Hortense. Basil's shyness is overcome, and he visits the widow again. This time he makes love to her, and when her suitor, Pavlo, hears a rumor of this, he commits suicide. The townspeople turn against the widow and brutally murder her. Madame Hortense becomes ill; and while she is dying, the peasants of the village strip her of all her belongings. Work on the mine is finally completed, but a crucial cable line is destroyed as the operation begins. Basil is upset by his bad fortune, but Zorba teaches him to dance and be joyful in accepting what life has to ... +


Basil, an introverted English writer, comes to Greece to work on a lignite mine he has inherited from his Greek father. He meets an exuberant Greek peasant, Zorba, who persuades Basil to hire him to help work on the mine. They arrive on Crete and take up lodging in a hotel owned by Madame Hortense, an old French courtesan. Zorba courts Madame Hortense and persuades Basil to court another woman, a beautiful widow. Zorba goes to the city for a spree and leaves Basil to take care of Madame Hortense. Basil's shyness is overcome, and he visits the widow again. This time he makes love to her, and when her suitor, Pavlo, hears a rumor of this, he commits suicide. The townspeople turn against the widow and brutally murder her. Madame Hortense becomes ill; and while she is dying, the peasants of the village strip her of all her belongings. Work on the mine is finally completed, but a crucial cable line is destroyed as the operation begins. Basil is upset by his bad fortune, but Zorba teaches him to dance and be joyful in accepting what life has to offer. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.