Katina Paxinou (Aikaterini Konstantopoulou)

Katina Paxinou

Katina Paxinou was born Aikaterini Konstantopoulou (Αικατερίνη Κωνσταντοπούλου) in Piraeus, Greece, she trained as an opera singer at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève and later in Berlin and Vienna. According to her biography in Playbill (1942), Paxinou was disowned by her family after she decided to seek a permanent stage career. Paxinou made her debut at the Municipal Theatre of Piraeus in 1920 in the operatic version of Maurice Maeterlinck’s Sister Beatrice, with a score by Dimitri Mitropoulos. She first appeared in a play in 1928, as a member of Marika Kotopouli’s troupe, in an Athens production of Henry Bataille’s The Naked Woman. In 1931, she joined Aimilios Veakis’ troupe along with Alexis Minotis, where she translated and appeared in the first of Eugene O’Neill’s plays to be staged in Greece, Desire Under the Elms. She also appeared in Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and August Strindberg’s The Father. In 1932, Paxinou was among the actors that inaugurated the recently re-founded National Theatre of Greece, where she worked until 1940. During her stay in the National Theatre, she distinguished herself on Greek stage starring in major plays, such as Sophocles’ Electra, Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which were also performed in London, Frankfurt and Berlin.

When World War II broke out, Paxinou was performing in London. Unable to return to Greece, she emigrated to the United States, where she had earlier appeared in 1931, performing Clytemnestra in a modern Greek version of Electra. She was selected to play the role of Pilar in the film For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), for which she won an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture. She made one British film, Uncle Silas (1947), which features Jean Simmons in the main female role and, worked in Italy for 20th Century Fox, played the mother of Tyrone Power’s character in Prince of Foxes (1949). After that film, Paxinou worked for a Hollywood studio only once more, to again play a gypsy woman, this time in the religious epic, The Miracle (1959). In 1950, Paxinou resumed her stage career. In her native Greece, she formed the Royal Theatre of Athens with Alexis Minotis, her principal director and her husband since 1940. Paxinou made several appearances on the Broadway stage and television as well. She played the lead in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler for 12 performances at New York City’s Longacre Theatre, opening on June 28, 1942. She also played the principal role in the first production in English of Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, at the ANTA Playhouse in New York in 1951, and a BBC television production of Lorca’s Blood wedding (Bodas de sangre), broadcast on June 2, 1959. Paxinou died from cancer in Athens in 1973 at the age of 72. She was survived by her husband, and her one daughter from her first marriage to Ioannis Paxinos, whose surname she had been using after their divorce. Her remains are buried at First Cemetery of Athens.

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Born

  • December, 17, 1900
  • Piraeus, Greece

Died

  • February, 22, 1973
  • Athens, Greece

Cause of Death

  • cancer

Cemetery

  • First Cemetery
  • Athens, Greece

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