It has been 35 years since his death. For at least three whole generations, our beloved “Our Uncle Mimis”, the leading comedian, the sweet man, the deeply thinking artist, the uncompromising dude, in life, in the struggle, in the art, in the national resistance,
Mimis Fotopoulos will live forever, through his films, but also his writing work, while the older ones will always remember with emotion his acting abilities in the theater, and those who met him from the outside heart, the parties, the authenticity of character, the besa, the pure ideologue.
The legendary “Petrakis” of the classic comedy “Laterna, Poverty and Philotimos”, the most beloved “Soferaki” of the cinema, the sweetest “beggar” in the immortal “Fake Pound”, is not forgotten with anything. With the immediacy of his charismatic style, the warm tone of his voice, his sense of humor and his popular spontaneity, he will provoke the source of laughter and emotion, he will put for many, many more years the salt and pepper that life needs and sugar to sweeten us even in the most difficult hours.
From Zatouna and the orphanage to the theater
He was born in a well-known, today, village, in Zatouna, Arcadia. It is well known not because Mimis Fotopoulos was born (April 8, 1913) but – as he wrote in his autobiography “The river of my life” – because the junta exiled Mikis Theodorakis there. Due to the untimely death of his father, he became an orphan, and had a difficult childhood. But they would not be the only ones, because the worst would come. He will study for two years at the Athens School of Philosophy, to give up and follow his dream, studying at the Drama School of the then Royal Theater.
From the National Resistance in El Daba
The difficulties, however, will not end and after the war, his occupation and participation in the National Resistance came. He joined the ranks of the EAM, fought for the liberation of his homeland and after December 1944 – and after the British troops burned the house where he lived with his brother – he was arrested by the British, to be in the infamous camp of El Daba . His family will lose track of him and he will finally return to Greece in 1945. He will express his bitterness from the experience of his detention in his book “Hostage of the English – El Daba”. Survival conditions were very difficult, especially for Greeks who could not stand the inhuman climate of the African desert, while the guards did what they could to make life more difficult for the prisoners. Many lives were lost, fortunately, Fotopoulos was one of those who returned from hell.
The restart pack
Nevertheless, he will find the courage to catch the thread again from the beginning, which would make him perhaps the most beloved actor in the country. Before the war he had received the baptism of fire, at the age of 19 in the play “Locandiera” with the Kounelakis troupe, while two years later, in 1934 he would start his first tour with the “boulouki” of Themistocles Nezer.
Art Theater and Don Camilo
Upon his return, he will be fortunate to work with the debut Art Theater, with plays such as Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard”, Ibsen’s “Wild Ducks”, Shakespeare’s “Summer Night Dream”, and the Royal Garden Theater. His success was huge and in 1952 he created his own troupe, with which he toured in many foreign countries, even in America. Somewhere there came his spectacular entry into the craft of Greek cinema, although the theater never left him, making huge successes, many times with his friend Dino Iliopoulos, but also in many other performances, such as the famous “Don Camilo” which was also broadcast on television.
In 1948 he will appear for the first time on the big screen, with “Madame Soussou”, he will play and stand out in the famous comedy satire “The Germans Are Coming Back”, in the enjoyable comedy “Come to Uncle”, next to Nikos Stavridis and in the excellent melodrama “Grousouzis “with Orestis Makris. His first huge success will come with the classic romantic comedy “To Soferaki” by George Tzavellas, where he will embody in a unique way the motorist, the reveler dude, who will make up his mind, his love with Smaroula Giouli.
Fake Pound, Vassiliadou and Filotimo
In 1954, the time will come for “Oraia ton Athinon” which gives its rest as a dowry of Georgia Vassiliadou, having Nikos Stavridis by his side again. Shortly afterwards, he will play in “Kalpiki Lira”, in the unforgettable role of the supposedly blind beggar who is against the “kokota” Speranza Vrana. And in 1955 will come his emblematic role in the immortal comedy “Laterna, Poverty and Philotimos” by Sakellariou. Although Vassilis Avlonitis will interpret his life, Fotopoulos is equally enjoyable and most importantly, he will keep his composure, will highlight the discreet social commentary for a society that does not live in paradise and of course the moving elements of the film. He will do the same in -one of the few sequels in Greek cinema- “Laterna, Poverty and Carnation” again with the same cast. In 1956 he will play in the unforgettable romantic comedy “I Kafetzou”, next to the amazing Georgia Vassiliadou, in the role of the poor coffee man, with a degree in dentistry.
From glow to decline
For five or six years, the huge successes in cinema will continue, as he stars and participates in favorite films, some of which have artistic value. Indicatively some of them were “Neither Cat nor Damage” with Logothetidis, “O Fanouris and his Soi”, “The Yellow Gloves” again with Logothetidis, “Poor People and Money”, with Stavridis and of course his last great personal success “Theodore and the Deacon”. The sequel was not as expected, as the old commercial cinema had begun to decline in the mid-1960s, and with the junta it almost collapsed.
The ρί blackness and the collage
During the dark seven years, Fotopoulos, who had been left alone with his two daughters, while his wife Margarita Tsala had been exiled to Gyaros, found a way out in painting, highlighting another of his talents, using his stamp collage technique and making a total of ten project reports. In addition, he always found time to write poetry (four poetry collections), he also dealt with trade unionism, in the difficult field of the spectacle, as a member of the Board of SEI and a member of the Panhellenic Free Theater Association, while he was also president of the pioneering mobile theater. Chariot of Thespidos.
Mimis Fotopoulos, who left us his favorite character in over 100 films, will suddenly “leave” from a heart attack on October 29, 1986, causing shivers of emotion in all Greeks – even in his ideological opponents. After all, “Uncle Mimis” was one of those whose existence united the Greek people.