Dimitris Papamichail – a Great Greek Actor from Piraeus

Dimitris PapamichailThe Man & His Hometown

Probably no other actor could be identified with his hometown as much as Dimitris Papamichail is with Piraeus. Because being from Piraeus isn’t just a detail in a man’s résumé, it’s a whole combination of traits that come to mind: outspoken and straightforward, a man of honor who would never go back on his word, defending his dignity and pride.

Born in Piraeus, in the neighborhood of Hatzikyriakio in 1934, Dimitris Papamichail was raised this way. And it is this very aspect of his personality that emerges in many of the movie parts he interpreted during his successful career.

A Handsome Jeune Premier & a Great Actor

Dimitris Papamichail studied acting in the Drama School of the Greek National Theater with Alexis Minotis and Alexis Solomos being some of his teachers. He had the looks and he had the attitude, but above all, he had a great talent: a new jeune premier was born.

In the early years of his career, Dimitris Papamichail will hold the leading role in many plays of the classic repertory presented by the Greek National Theater, next to Katina Paxinou, Alexis Minotis and Kyveli.

A purely theater actor, Dimitris Papamichail didn’t think much of the cinema industry. But it was from the movies that the skyrocketing success will come. In the early 1960’s Dimitris Papamichail stars in some of the blockbusters of his era: “School Heartbeats” of Alekos Sakellarios and “Mandalena” of Dinos Dimopoulos, next to his future wife and Greece’s superstar, Aliki Vougiouklaki. “Mandalena” will represent Greece in the 1964 Festival de Cannes.

In 1963 Dimitris Papamichail holds the leading male role in Nikos Georgiadis’ “The Red Lanterns”, an exceptional film portraying the world of Trouba, the brothel neighborhood of Piraeus. The film is nominated for the Oscar for Foreign Language Film as well as for the Palme d’ Or in the Festival de Cannes (1964).

In 1971 Dimitris Papamichail stars in the historic film “Papaflessas”, where he incarnates one of the most controversial figures of the Greek Independence War (1821), Grigorios Dikaios or Papaflessas. The movie wins the Award for Best Film in the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and Papamichail’s acting is stunning.

His Voice & His Dance

Papamichail had quite often to sing and dance for the needs of the films he was making. Great Greek music composers entrusted him with their songs, Stavros Xarchacos and Yorgos Zambetas being two of them. He actually made 8 records while his zeibekiko dancing – forever identified with his name – had a truly unique character.

Aliki & Dimitris

With their acquaintance dating back in the early 1950’s when they were both students at the Drama School of the Greek National Theater not really liking each other, Dimitris Papamichail and Aliki Vougiouklaki will eventually fall in love in the 1960’s. At the time, Dimitris is a top notch performance theater actor and Aliki is Greece’s indisputable superstar.

They work together on stage and screen, with their movies being the biggest box office hits at the time. They become the most glamorous couple in the show biz, with their career and personal life always being on the spotlight. They will get married in 1965 and have a son but their turbulent relationship will end in a divorce in 1975.

They will meet again on stage in the 1980’s, when they put on Willy Russell’s “Educating Rita” and Eduardo de Filippo’s “Filumena Marturano”, with great success.

In the years that follow their separation, Dimitris Papamichail will turn to the classic repertory plays and interpret some great roles. In 1998 he appears in the Ancient Theater of Epidavros as Oedipus in Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” while the last play he will put on is Yasmina Reza’s “Three Versions of Life”, in 2000.

Dimitris Papamichail died in 2004.

Dimitris Papamichail Trivia: A Café & a Great Rebetiko Song

Dimitris Papamichail’s father, Yannis Papamichail, owned a café in Hatzikiriakio, near the church of St. Nile. In this café one of the greatest rebetiko songs was written: “Hatzikyriakio” by the rebetiko composer Bayanteras, who also lived in Hatzikyriakio.

Listen here the first version of 'Hatzikyriakeio', composed by Bayanteras
Dimitris Papamichail – a Great Greek Actor from Piraeus
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