Farid Shawki
John Wayne of Egyptian Cinema
29 July 1998


By Adel Darwish
Egyptian actor Fari Shawki who was known as both the 'king' and the 'Beast of the Screen' died Monday (27 July) at the age of 78 in Cairo from a heart failure. His funeral Tuesday, which was attended by a representative of President Honsi Mubarak, leading politicians, actors and celebrities, turned into a popular demonstration of affection by tens of thousands of his fans, Egyptians and Arabs alike despite a heat reaching 98 degrees. The two hours funeral, was seen by Faro Huns, the minister of culture who walked behind the coffin as a proof that Shaw was an irreplaceable national icon .
Egyptian, and Arab newspapers in 22 countries in the Middle East and Europe, are still full of obituaries and words of condolences and remembrances penned by intellectuals, actors, as well as people working in the film and television industry. As many referred to him as the ' head of the screen family', ' our dear colleague', and ' our great mentor,' it was obvious that the writers covered an age spectrum from mid twenties into mature actors and actresses in their eighties.
In a spanning almost 60 years, Shaw starred, produced, or wrote the scenario of over 400 films - more than the films produced collectively by the whole Arab world - in addition to theatre, television and vedio plays. His popularity covered the whole the Middle East including Turkey where he acted in some films there, and directors always addressed his as ' Farid Bay' ( Sir Farid) as a sign of respect. As he worked with over 90 Film directors and producers. 
For the first ten years he was locked in the villain's role. By late 1940's his name along side that of the late Mahmoud el- Mileegy ( another Egyptian cinema icon ) guaranteed a box- office success. In 1950 he changed that image forever playing the leading role in Ga'aloony Mugriman - They made a Criminal out of me-. It was his own script in which he tackled the problem of homeless children, thus exposing the failure of government policy and the corruption of state run orphanages and young offenders institutions.
Disliked by the establishment, the film was later rewarded the ` State Prize '- Shawki went on to collect 10 best actor awards in many festivals and four other wards for his scripts in the next thirty years. 
For the critics he was known as ` John Wayne of East' and for the masses ` the Beast of the Silver Screen', who champion the underdog, especially women, and the dispossessed using an effective mixture of his cunning, physical strength, personal charm and unbending principles, to overcome the wicked aggressors.
With an illiteracy of over 80 per cent at the time, the ` Screen Beast' materialised the masses dreams of defeating the untouchables, who were above the law thanks to an unjust class system.
Egypt's celebrated script writer Abd-elHay Adeeb, once recalled how he had to rewrite a scene in a film after it had been released, because the character played by Shawki was slapped on the back of the neck - a sign of contempt in southern Mediterranean countries- leading the audience in the upper Egypt city of Asiute to smash up the cinema building in protest. Yousef Chahine's master piece 'The Land' ended with the main character - played by Mahmoud el-Mileegy- dying dragged by the police officer's horse; audience called for the ' Beast' - Shawki who did not take part in the film - to come to his rescue.
A number of critics spent a great deal of time discussing the phenomenon as it was clear that Shawki lived in the psyche of the nation as an image greater than reality and he represented hope and implementation of justice during the totalitarian military rule in the 1950's and 60's. With the influence of Egyptian cinema on the whole of the Middle East, the Beast of the Silver Screen had a similar status in all Arabic Speaking nations, where the main entertainment was, and still to a large degree, Egyptian films.
Film producers and financiers called Shawki - Malek el- Terso- or the King of the Third Class ( Terso is an Egyptian slang word driven from the Italian word referring to the cheap third class seats in the cinema from which the bulk of the box office taking came)
Shawki was born in July 1920 in Cairo's popular quarter of Al-Sayyedah Zynab, where the majority of residents were the terso- film gores when Egyptian cinema started turning into a big industry. The Young Shawki worked as a civil servant as the Second World War broke out. He was given small parts in Raamasis Theatre group headed by Youssef Bay Wahby. He also formed a local theatre group `The National League of Acting' which included his young wife actress Zynab Abd-el-Hady whom he married in 1941, they had one daughter Muna. They were divorced four years later, when he married his second wife, dancer Saneya Shawki, whom he also divorced in 1950. 
By 1943 the NLA became The 20 Theatre as the members grew to 20 all became house hold names in Egyptian theatre and cinema for decades to come. 
The group specialised in presenting Chekov's plays, and Shawki excelled in playing the leading parts - later on he loved to play classic parts in screenplays of novels by Nobel Prize holder Naguib Mahfouz.
With success in theatre, and small parts in films, Shawki left his post at the civil service in 1946. Few months later The 20 Theatre became the nucleus of the Higher Institute of Daram. He made his mark in the same year in the film ` Angels in Hell'. 
With his third wife, singer Huda Sultan, whom he married in 1951, they made a famous partnership in more than 80 films. The marriage lasted 18 years and produced two daughters Maha and Nahed who is a successful film producer in her own right. He was working on a script for his daughter in film dealing with homeless young people just before he died. 
Ms Sultan was the most tearful of the three surviving wives who attended the funeral Tuesday.
In 1970, he married Soheir Turk, they stayed together since, she also gave him two daughters, entering him the last title Abu-el-banat ( the father of all girls).

Farid Shawki, actor, script writer and producer
Acted in 361 films, 12 theatre plays and 12 television series 
Wrote 22 Film script
produced 26 films 
Born Cairo 3 July 1920
Died Cairo 27 July 1998
He was survived by wife Soheir Turk, Five daughters Muna, Nahed, Maha, Rania and Abir.


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