Katina Paxinou (15/12/1900 - 22/02/1973)
She was born in Piraeus in 1900 to a high class family. She initially studied at Hill School, and then continued studying at the Nun School of Tinos. Because of her lively character, she was then sent at a boarding school in Switzerland. She studied music and singing at the Geneva Conservatory, as well as in other similar schools in Vienna and Berlin. She made her debut at an early age and she was soon distinguished for her talent and love in acting. Her first major role was that of Beatrice in the opera Sister Beatrice, written specifically for her by Mitropoulos; the play was staged in 1920 at the Theatre of Piraeus. Her first theatrical role in prose was in 1929, at the play La Femme Nue (The Nude Woman), which established her fame as an actress of dramatic roles.
In 1931, she collaborated with Aemilios Veakis, with whom she started working at the troupe of Alexis Minotis; she later married Minotis and had a fruitful collaboration from 1932 to 1940. That’s the year she became a permanent member of the troupe of the National Theatre; thus she started appearing in various plays in London, Frankfurt and Berlin. During the War, she moved to the USA, where she made appearances in Broadway. However, the play that made her world famous was the movie “For whom the bell tolls”, where she appeared as a passionate Spanish patriot, Pilar. For her acting, she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Moreover, for her appearance in the movie “Mourning becomes Electra”, she received the Cocteau award.
She returned to Greece in 1952, where once again, she started her appearances at the National Theatre, alongside Alexis Minotis, staging Ibsen and Lorca. She also participated in various festivals during the 1950s, on roles of Ancient Greek plays in Herodion and Epidavros. During the Regime of the Colonels, Paxinou and Minotis created their own troupe and staged various works by Lorca (Blood Wedding), O’Casey (Juno and the Paycock), etc. Her last appearance in theatre was at Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children”.
Paxinou was very talented and had skill in her facial expressions, which enabled her to appear in various roles, from ancient Greek tragedy to Brecht’s plays. Moreover, her studies in music helped her control the tone of her voice, so as to enhance the melody of poetic speech. She died in 1973 in Athens.