Paxinou, Katina (1900–1973)

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Paxinou, Katina (1900–1973)

Greek stage and film actress who won an Academy Award for her performance in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Born Katina Konstantopoulou (also seen as Constantopoulos) in Piraeus, Greece, in 1900; died of cancer on February 22, 1973, in Athens; daughter of Basil Konstantopoulou; studied voice at the GenevaConservatoire; married Ivannis Paxinou (divorced); married Alexis Minotis (an actor and director), in 1940; children: a daughter.

Selected theater:

originally appeared in opera in Athens; first dramatic appearance was in La Femme Nue in Athens (1924); made New York debut as Clytemnestra in Electra (1930); appeared as Clytemnestra in Agamemnon (Greek National Theatre, 1932), in title role in Anna Christie (Greek National Theatre, 1932), as Mrs. Alving in Ghosts (Greek National Theatre, 1934), as Phaedra in Hippolytus (Greek National Theatre, 1937), as Lady Windermere in Lady Windermere's Fan (Greek National Theatre, 1937), as Goneril in King Lear (Greek National Theatre, 1938), as Mrs. Chevely in An Ideal Husband (Greek National Theatre, 1938), in title role in Electra (London, 1939), as Gertrude in Hamlet (London, 1939), in title role in Hedda Gabler (New York, 1942), as Bernarda in The House of Bernarda Alba (New York, 1951, Greece, 1954), as Jocasta in Oedipus Rex (London, 1966), in title role in Hecuba (London, 1966).

Selected filmography:

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943); Hostages (1943); Confidential Agent (1945); Mourning Becomes Electra (1947); Uncle Silas (The Inheritance, UK, 1947); Prince of Foxes (1949); Mr. Arkadin (Confidential Report, Sp.-Fr., 1935); The

Miracle (1959); Rocco e i suoi Fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers , It.-Fr., 1960); Tante Zita (Zita, Fr., 1968); Un Eté sauvage (Fr., 1972).

A formidable actress whose career encompassed stage and screen, Katina Paxinou was born in 1900 in Piraeus, Greece, and studied voice at the Geneva Conservatoire, intent on a career as an opera singer. She switched to acting in 1924, and shortly thereafter joined the Greek National Theatre, becoming the company's leading actress. Paxinou excelled in the classical Greek roles, but she also translated and directed a number of English-language plays, among them Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, in which she also played the title role. One of her most famous roles was Mrs. Alving in Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, a part she first portrayed in 1934, and thereafter reprised annually for six years.

Paxinou made her London debut in 1939 in Sophocles' Electra, and she was still performing there when World War II broke out. Unable to return to Greece, she sailed for the United States, making her Broadway debut in the title role of Hedda Gabler (1942). Hollywood soon beckoned, and the very next year she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Pilar in For Whom the Bell Tolls, a film adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel, starring Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper. Paxinou made several additional Hollywood films before returning to Greece with her second husband, actor-director Alexis Minotis, with whom she frequently acted. She returned to New York in 1951, portraying Bernarda in Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, a role she repeated in Greece in 1954. Throughout the 1960s, the actress continued to perform on stage in London and Greece, and also appeared in an occasional European film. She and her husband later established the Royal Theatre in Athens.


Katina Paxinou Museum, 13 Thoukididou, Plaka.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts