Jules Dassin

Julius "Jules" Dassin (December 18, 1911 – March 31, 2008) was an American film director, producer, writer and actor. He was a subject of the Hollywood blacklist in the McCarthy era, and subsequently moved to France, where he revived his career.

Jules Dassin
Joe and Jules Dassin 1970
Jules Dassin (right) with son Joe in Paris in 1970
Julius Dassin

December 18, 1911
DiedMarch 31, 2008 (aged 96)
Athens, Greece
Béatrice Launer
(m. 1937; div. 1962)

Melina Mercouri
(m. 1966; died 1994)
ChildrenJoseph Ira Dassin
Richelle Dassin
Julie Dassin

Early life

Dassin was born in Middletown, Connecticut, one of eight children of Berthe Vogel and Samuel Dassin, a barber. His parents were both Jewish immigrants from Odessa, in modern-day Ukraine.[1] Dassin grew up in Harlem and went to Morris High School in the Bronx. During his youth he attended Camp Kinderland, the left-wing Yiddish youth camp. He joined the Communist Party USA in the 1930s and left it after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. He started as a Yiddish actor with the ARTEF (Yiddish Proletarian Theater) company in New York. He collaborated on a film with Jack Skurnick that was incomplete because of Skurnick's early death.


Dassin quickly became better known for his noir films Brute Force (1947), The Naked City (1948), and Thieves' Highway (1949), which helped him to become "one of the leading American filmmakers of the postwar era."[2]

Dassin's most influential film was Rififi (1955), an early work in the "heist film" genre. It inspired later heist films, such as Ocean's Eleven (1960).[2] Another piece it inspired was Dassin's own heist film Topkapi, filmed in France and Istanbul, Turkey with Melina Mercouri and Oscar winner Peter Ustinov.

Hollywood Blacklist

Dassin said Darryl F. Zanuck in 1948 called him into his office to inform him he would be blacklisted, but he still had enough time to make a movie for Fox.[3] Dassin was blacklisted in Hollywood during the production of Night and the City (1950).[4] He was not allowed on the studio property to edit or oversee the musical score for the film.[5] He also had trouble finding work abroad, as U.S. distribution companies blacklisted the U.S. distribution of any European film associated with artists blacklisted in Hollywood. In 1952, after Dassin had been out of work for two years, actress Bette Davis hired him to direct her in the Broadway revue Two's Company. The show closed early, however, and Dassin left for Europe. Dassin did not work as a film director again until Rififi in 1954 (a French production). Most of Dassin's films in the decades following the blacklist are European productions.[2] His prolific later career in Europe and the affiliation with Greece through his second wife, combined with a common pronunciation of his surname as "Da-SAN" in Europe, as opposed to "DASS-in" in the United States leads to a common misconception that he was a European director.[5]

Personal life

Dasin family 1970
Joe and Jules Dassin with Béatrice Launer in Paris in 1970

Jules Dassin was married twice:

  • In 1937 he married Béatrice Launer, a New York–born, Jewish–American violinist (aka Beatrice Launer-Dassin; 1913–1994),[6] a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music.[7] They married in 1937 and divorced in 1962. Their children were Joseph Ira Dassin, better known as Joe Dassin (1938–80), a popular French singer in the 1970s; songwriter Richelle "Rickie" Dassin (born 1940); and actress–singer Julie Dassin (born 1944; also known as Julie D.).[8]
  • In May 1955 he met Melina Mercouri, Greek actress and wife of Panos Harokopos, at the Cannes Film Festival; she later starred in several of Dassin's films. At about the same time, he discovered the literary works of Nikos Kazantzakis; these two elements created a bond with Greece. He divorced Launer in 1962 and married Mercouri in 1966; they remained married until Mercouri's death in 1994. The couple had to leave Greece after the colonels' coup in 1967. In 1970, they were accused of having financed an attempt to overthrow the dictatorship, but the charges were quickly dropped. Dassin and Mercouri lived in New York City during the 1970s; then, when the military dictatorship in Greece fell in 1974, they returned to Greece and lived out their lives there. While Mercouri became involved with politics and won a parliamentary seat, Dassin stayed with movie-making in Europe but found time in the U.S. to make another movie, the racial drama Uptight, which would be his last American film.

Affiliation with Greece

He was considered a major Philhellene to the point of Greek officials describing him as a "first generation Greek." Along with his second wife Melina Mercouri, he opposed the Greek military junta. A major supporter of the return of the Elgin Marbles to Athens, for which he established the Melina Mercouri Institution in her memory, he missed the opening ceremony of the New Acropolis Museum by only a few months owing to his death at the age of 96.[9] He died from complications from a case of flu; he is survived by his two daughters and his grandchildren.

Upon his death, the Greek prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, released a statement: "Greece mourns the loss of a rare human being, a significant artist and true friend. His passion, his relentless creative energy, his fighting spirit and his nobility will remain unforgettable."[2]

Awards and honors

For his 1955 film Rififi, Dassin earned the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.[2] His 1960 film Never on Sunday earned the music Academy Award (Manos Hadjidakis (Greek: Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά), Ta Paidia tou Peiraia), and the Cannes Film Festival best actress award (Melina Mercouri).[9][10] In 1982, he was a member of the jury at the 34th Berlin International Film Festival.[11]


The Academy Film Archive preserved Jules Dassin's film Night and the City, including the British and pre-release versions.[12]


Year Title Credited as
Director Producer Writer Actor Role Notes
1941 The Tell-Tale Heart Yes
1942 Nazi Agent Yes
The Affairs of Martha Yes
Reunion in France Yes
1943 Young Ideas Yes
1944 The Canterville Ghost Yes
1946 Two Smart People Yes
A Letter for Evie Yes
1947 Brute Force Yes
1948 The Naked City Yes
1949 Thieves' Highway Yes
1950 Night and the City Yes
1955 Rififi Yes Yes Yes César le Milanais
1957 He Who Must Die Yes Yes
1959 The Law Yes Yes
1960 Never on Sunday Yes Yes Yes Yes Homer Thrace
1962 Phaedra Yes Yes Yes Yes Christo Uncredited
1964 Topkapı Yes Yes Yes Turkish cop Uncredited
1966 10:30 P.M. Summer Yes Yes Yes
1968 Survival 1967 Yes Yes
Uptight Yes Yes Yes
1970 Promise at Dawn Yes Yes Yes Yes Ivan Mozzhukhin
1974 The Rehearsal Yes Yes Yes Himself
1978 A Dream of Passion Yes Yes Yes
1980 Circle of Two Yes


  1. ^ David B. Green, This Day in Jewish History 1911: Blacklisted Director Who Became the Toast of Paris Is Born, Haaretz, 18 December 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Luther, Claudia (April 1, 2008). "Noir master directed caper classic 'Rififi'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  3. ^ Cineaste, Dan Georgakas, spring 2007, p.72
  4. ^ The film was shot in 1949, see Duncan, Paul (July 2, 2014). "Why I Love: Night and the City (1950)". Port. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Dassin, Jules (February 1, 2005). Night and the City (post-screening interview in DVD supplements). Criterion Collection.
  6. ^ Beatrice Dassin. Genealogy Bank. Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  7. ^ The Juilliard School of Music, "The Baton", p. 12 Archived May 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Julie D.. Rateyourmusic.com (July 19, 1945). Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  9. ^ a b (in Greek) Skai News Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Απεβίωσε ο Ζυλ Ντασέν (Jules Dassin died), English (machine translation) Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
  10. ^ Internet Movie Database, Pote tin Kyriaki (1960), Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
  11. ^ "Berlinale: 1984 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  12. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.

External links

A Dream of Passion

A Dream of Passion (Greek: Κραυγή Γυναικών, translit. Kravgi gynaikon) is a 1978 Greek drama film directed by Jules Dassin. The story follows Melina Mercouri as Maya, an actress playing Medea, who seeks out Brenda Collins, portrayed by Ellen Burstyn, a woman who is in jail for murdering her own children to punish her husband for his infidelity.

A Letter for Evie

A Letter for Evie is a 1946 American comedy film directed by Jules Dassin.

Brute Force (1947 film)

Brute Force is a 1947 American crime film noir directed by Jules Dassin, from a screenplay by Richard Brooks with cinematography by William H. Daniels. It stars Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn and Charles Bickford.This was among several noir films made by Dassin during the postwar period. The others were Thieves' Highway, Night and the City and The Naked City.

Hamilchama al hashalom

Hamilchama al hashalom is a 1968 film directed by Jules Dassin. A version in French was released under the title Comme un éclair, and the English language release was titled Survival 1967.

He Who Must Die

He Who Must Die (French: Celui qui doit mourir, Italian: Colui che deve morire) is a 1957 French film directed by Jules Dassin. It is based on the novel Christ Recrucified (also published as The Greek Passion) by Nikos Kazantzakis. It was entered into the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.

Nazi Agent

Nazi Agent is a 1942 American spy film directed by Jules Dassin, in his first feature-length film for MGM. It stars Conrad Veidt playing identical twins, one loyal to the United States (U.S.), the other a dedicated German Nazi.

Never on Sunday

Never on Sunday (Greek: Ποτέ την Κυριακή, Pote tin Kyriaki) is a 1960 Greek black-and-white romantic comedy film.

The film tells the story of Ilya, a self-employed, free-spirited prostitute who lives in the port of Piraeus in Greece, and Homer, an American tourist from Middletown, Connecticut - a classical scholar enamored of all things Greek. Homer feels Ilya's life style typifies the degradation of Greek classical culture, and attempts to steer her onto the path of morality, while, at the same time, Ilya attempts to loosen Homer up. It constitutes a variation of the Pygmalion plus "hooker with a heart of gold" story.The film stars Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin, and it gently submerges the viewer into Greek culture, including dance, music, and language (through the use of subtitles). The theme song and the bouzouki theme of the movie became hits of the 1960s. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Original Song (Manos Hadjidakis for "Never on Sunday"). It was nominated for the Academy Awards for, respectively, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Melina Mercouri), Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Best Director (Jules Dassin), and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay as Written Directly for the Screen (Dassin). Mercouri won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.

Phaedra (film)

Phaedra (Greek: Φαίδρα) is a 1962 American drama film directed by Jules Dassin as a vehicle for his partner (and future wife) Melina Mercouri, after her worldwide hit Never on Sunday.

The film was the fourth collaboration between Dassin and Mercouri, who took the title role. Greek writer Margarita Lymberaki adapted Euripides' Hippolytus into a melodrama concerning the rich society of ship owners and their families, but still containing some of the tragic elements of the ancient drama. The film is set in Paris, London, and the Greek island of Hydra.

Promise at Dawn

Promise at Dawn (French: La Promesse de l'aube) is a 1970 American drama film directed by Jules Dassin. It is based on the 1960 novel Promise at Dawn (French: La Promesse de l'aube) by Romain Gary.

Reunion in France

Reunion in France is a 1942 American war film distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring Joan Crawford, John Wayne, and Philip Dorn in a story about a woman in occupied France who, learning her well-heeled lover has German connections, aids a downed American flyer. Ava Gardner appears in a small uncredited role as a Parisian shopgirl. The film was directed by Jules Dassin.

The Affairs of Martha

The Affairs of Martha is a 1942 American romantic comedy film directed by Jules Dassin and written by Isobel Lennart based on her story. It stars Marsha Hunt and Richard Carlson. It is also known as Once Upon a Thursday.

The Law (1959 film)

The Law (Italian: La legge, French: La Loi and originally released in America as Where the Hot Wind Blows) is a 1959 French-Italian film directed by Jules Dassin.

The Rehearsal (1974 film)

The Rehearsal (Gr. I Dokimi) is a 1974 film produced by Jules Dassin that is a cinematographic indictment of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974.

The Tell-Tale Heart (1941 film)

The Tell-Tale Heart is a 1941 American drama film, 20 minutes long, directed by Jules Dassin. The screenplay by Doane R. Hoag is based on the 1843 short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe.

The film marked Dassin's directorial debut after working as an assistant to Alfred Hitchcock and Garson Kanin. It is typical of the short film adaptations of literary classics studios produced to precede the feature film during the 1930s and 1940s.

Thieves' Highway

Thieves' Highway is a 1949 film noir directed by Jules Dassin. The screenplay was written by A. I. Bezzerides, based on his novel Thieves' Market. The film was released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection in 2005.

Topkapi (film)

Topkapi (1964) is a Technicolor heist film made by Filmways Pictures and distributed by United Artists.It was produced and directed by the emigre American film director Jules Dassin. The film is based on Eric Ambler's novel The Light of Day (1962), adapted as a screenplay by Monja Danischewsky.The film stars Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell, Peter Ustinov, Robert Morley, Gilles Ségal and Akim Tamiroff. The music score was by Manos Hadjidakis, the cinematography by Henri Alekan and the costume design by Theoni V. Aldredge.

Two Smart People

Two Smart People is a 1946 American drama film directed by Jules Dassin and starring Lucille Ball and John Hodiak, Lloyd Nolan and Hugo Haas.

Young Ideas

Young Ideas is a 1943 American romantic comedy film directed by Jules Dassin and starring Susan Peters, Herbert Marshall and Mary Astor.

Films directed by Jules Dassin

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.