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Never on Sunday

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Never on Sunday
Directed byJules Dassin
Written byJules Dassin
StarringMelina Mercouri
Jules Dassin
Giorgos Fountas
CinematographyJacques Natteau
Edited byRoger Dwyre
Music byManos Hatzidakis
Melina Film
Distributed byLopert Pictures Corporation (United States)
Release date
  • 1 October 1960 (1960-10-01)
Running time
91 minutes
Box office$4 million (rentals)[3]

Never on Sunday (Greek: Ποτέ την Κυριακή, Poté tin Kyriakí) is a 1960 Greek romantic comedy film starring, written by and directed by Jules Dassin.

The film tells the story of Ilya, a contented Greek prostitute (Melina Mercouri), and Homer (Dassin), an earnest American classicist. Homer attempts to steer her toward morality while Ilya attempts to make Homer more relaxed. The original screenplay examines the impact of intellectual imperialism upon indigenous Joie de vivre. It constitutes a variation of the Pygmalion plus "hooker with a heart of gold" story.[4]

The film's bouzouki theme became a hit and the film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song (Manos Hadjidakis for "Never on Sunday"). It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Mercouri), Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Best Director and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay as Written Directly for the Screen (both Dassin). Mercouri won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.[5]

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Ilya, a self-employed, free-spirited prostitute who lives in the port of Piraeus in Greece, meets Homer Thrace, an American tourist and classical scholar and passionate Philhellene. Homer feels that Ilya's promiscuity typifies the epicurean degradation of Greek classical culture and attempts to steer her onto the path of morality while Ilya attempts to relax him and avoid his getting into unnecessary arguments and fights.


Self-employed prostitute and free spirit Ilya, in the port city of Piraeus, Greece, has a dedicated following of preferred “clients” who she entertains at weekly receptions on Sundays, a day she takes off from “business” to socialize. At the shipyard, when Ilya impulsively strips off her clothes to dive in for a dip in the ocean in her bra and panties, she challenges the “slaves” to join her, and many workers enthusiastically dive in. On his first day, Tonio, a half-Italian worker, becomes infatuated with the beautiful Ilya. He learns that popular Ilya “sets no prices and only goes with a client if she likes him.” When Tonio asks Ilya if he has a chance with her that evening, Ilya teases him, saying she will be busy with the baker, the fruit man, and the butcher. Tonio becomes determined to win over Ilya exclusively for himself.

Homer Thrace, an American scholar of classical Hellenic culture, believes that Ilya personifies how Greek culture decayed due to living by Stoic and Epicurean philosophies. According to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, as Homer believes, the great happiness is the joy of understanding. By contrast, Ilya sees life through her own idiosyncratic perspective, filtering out the negative. When Homer accompanies Ilya to see a performance of the classical drama Medea, Ilya sees Medea as a caring mother and wife who tricks her husband to win him back from a rival. Ilya refuses to accept that Medea is a ruthless wife who kills her own children to take revenge on her husband. Homer finds Ilya’s relentlessly upbeat perspective incomprehensible. Despite Ilya’s clients urging Homer to leave Ilya as she is, Homer sees himself as Pygmalion, determined to mold Ilya into Galatea, reforming the prostitute to a happy moral life.

“Noface”, whose naked face behind large sunglasses no one ever sees, owns apartment houses in Piraeus where prostitutes pay him high “rents” to work. The prostitutes are threatening to strike unless Noface lowers the rents. Noface considers the independent Ilya a bad example, giving his prostitutes undesirable ideas. Despo, leader of the striking prostitutes, appeals to Ilya, who has influence, to encourage all the prostitutes to stop working to join the strike. Noface offers to finance Homer’s experiment to reform Ilya, suggesting Homer “buy” Ilya’s time, hoping to eliminate her disruptive influence. Since they both have the same goal of putting Ilya out of business, though for different reasons, Homer accepts the money from Noface. To this end, Homer proposes to Ilya to conduct a two-week experiment, offering to pay her for her exclusive time to give her lessons in classical subjects and culture.

Ilya attempts to please Homer by studying the books and listening to the records he gives her, but is bored. Meanwhile Ilya’s clients, including Tonio, are disgruntled when denied her services. When Ilya hears the whistle of a ship arriving, she is unhappy that she must study rather than party with the sailors.

At the end of the two-week period, when Noface pays Homer for his expenses, Despo sees the transaction and immediately informs Ilya. Ilya reacts by leading the other prostitutes in their strike against Noface, refusing to work and throwing their headboards and mattresses out the windows. The prostitutes are arrested, but Noface’s lawyer pays their fines and negotiates with Ilya to reduce the rents from 180 to 90 drachmas. Tonio and his friends arrive to get Ilya, taking her to their local bar, where typically, Homer is in trouble because the know-it-all has told the guitar player that he is not a real musician if he cannot read music.

Homer tells Ilya that she’s beautiful but dumb, and he laments that he wanted to save her. Tonio replies, "Ilya is not a symbol, she’s a woman." Homer tells Ilya that indeed he wanted to make love to her but restrained himself. Tonio declares its “too late” because he is going to take Ilya back to Italy for a new life, sweeping Ilya off her feet and carrying her away. The bar owner tells Homer, “If anyone will save Ilya, it will be Tonio…because with love, it’s possible.”

Homer boards a ship back to the US, throwing away his notes.

"And they all go to the seashore!"



When the film was first released in Italy in 1960, the Committee for the Theatrical Review of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities rated it as VM16, not suitable for children under 16. The committee also demanded dialogue modifications and the excision of explicit scenes.[6]

Home media

MGM released Never on Sunday on VHS in 2000 as part of its Vintage Classics lineup.

Stage adaptation

Dassin and Mercouri adapted the film for Broadway as a musical, titled Illya Darling, starring Mercouri again in the title role.[7] She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance.


  1. ^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 127
  2. ^ "On $151,000 Negative Cost, Forsee 'Never On Sunday' Rentals of $8 mill". Variety. 1 November 1961. p. 1.
  3. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
  4. ^ Christopher Bonano, Gods, Heroes, And Philosophers, p. 53
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Never on Sunday". Retrieved 2024-02-29.
  6. ^ Italia Taglia Database of the documents produced by the Committee for the Theatrical Review of The Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, from 1944 to 2000.
  7. ^ Tams Witmark Illya Darling accessed 06/24/2023

External links

This page was last edited on 1 March 2024, at 15:08
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