Jules Dassin was born in Connecticut in 1911, but his parents soon moved to the Harlem section of New York City. People often think of Dassin as Greek, but that is solely because of his strong connection to Melina Mercouri, which came much later. His parents were actually Russian Jewish immigrants and Dassin started his show business career as an actor in Yiddish theater, and he (like many of his Jewish actor friends) joined the Communist Party in the mid-1930s. He quit it in 1939, but it would come back to haunt him. He moved to Hollywood in 1940 and became a director, but he did not significantly distinguish himself until 1947's Brute Force, still one of the finest prison escape movies ever made. He followed it the next year with Naked City, a wonderful look at New York City's police force in their day-to-day activities, shot in a pseudo-documentary style. He followed with Thieves' Highway and Night and the City, two well-regarded film noirs, but then he was named in the anti-Communist hearings by two fellow directors, and after Dassin refused to testify before the House Un-American Activites Committee, he was blacklisted, but ironically, this would lead Dassin to even greater success. He went to France and filmed Du rififi chez les hommes (released in the U.S. as Riffifi), and although it was shot in Paris on a shoestring budget, it is widely considered one of the two or three finest "heist" films ever made (in a league with The Killing and The Asphalt Jungle) and it contains a long silent sequence of the robbery, which has been copied endless times since. In 1960 Dassin went to Greece with Greek actress Melina Mercouri, and directed, wrote, and co-starred with her in Pote tin Kyriaki (released in the U.S. as Never On Sunday, and for which he was nominated for the Best Director Academy Award), about an American who tries to convince a free-spirited prostitute to change her life, but she is happy as she is. The movie was a huge international hit. In 1964 Dassin made Topkapi, with Mercouri, Maximillian Schell, Peter Ustinov, and other major talents, and it was a parody of heist movies (including Dassin's own classic silent sequence from Riffifi), and is one of the funnier movies ever made. In 1966 Dassin married Mercouri, and in 1974 they moved to Greece, and Mercouri and she became a member of the Greek Parliament, and they both lived in Greece the remainder of their lives. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 96.
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