Classic Film Guide

Alexis Zorbas (1964)

aka Zorba the Greek (1964)

Anthony Quinn picked up his last Academy Award (Best Actor) nomination in the title role (and his career's signature performance), playing opposite Alan Bates in this above average drama about an uptight Englishman who meets the titled ‘joie de vivre’ Greek that changes his life. Bates’s character is a writer who receives a small inheritance, an abandoned mine on the Greek island of Crete. On his way there, he is joined by Zorba (Quinn) who, with his outgoing and irresistible personality, convinces Basil (Bates) to take him along to "check out" what's been left to him. During their time together, Basil learns to live a little, loosened up by Zorba's influence. On the island, they meet a beautiful widow (Irene Papas) and a rich old Madame, Hortense (Lila Kedrova), who'd formerly "entertained" military officers. Basil gets to know the widow better while Zorba is kind to the now lonely Madame; neither of these associations works out well in the end (both end tragically, sadly because of the island's poor peasants and their traditional ways). Zorba then takes advantage of some superstitious monks & the Britisher, squandering his inheritance with a wild idea about how to transport timbers, needed to support Basil's collapsing mine, from a hilltop. Produced, directed, and written by Michael Cacoyannis (his screenplay was based on the Nikos Kazantzakis novel), who received his only three Oscar nominations in these categories. Supporting actress Kedrova (who'd replaced Simone Signoret), B&W Art Director-Set Decorator Vassilis Photopoulos & Cinematographer Walter Lassally earned Academy Awards on their only nominations.

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