Manos Katrakis: The man and his eventful life

It’s 1928. Manos Katrakis has the lead in «The Banner of ’21» by Costas Leloudas, at the Ideal cinema in Omonia. People come in and out, commenting on the film. On the footpath opposite is a young man, hesitating to cross the road to get to the box office and buy a ticket. It’s Katrakis himself, who is dying to see his own film but who is too shy. This shy lad with the manly bearing, tender soul and explosive temperament went on to a career adventure and misadventure, with 53 years in the theater, more than 100 films to his credit and a number of awards for his screen roles. Three theater specialists, Vassilis Martsakis, Maria Karageorgou and Ekaterini Demesticha, have devoted a new book to his life and work. The material in «Manos Katrakis in Life, on the Stage and the Screen» (Pub. Synchrones Epoches) is drawn from the Katrakis archive held by the Piraeus Municipality. Personal items, photographs, film scripts, costumes and sets illustrate the life of the artist, who was also a left-wing militant who was persecuted for his beliefs. Katrakis was born in Crete and trained as a ship’s wireless operator in Athens, but his career as a seaman ended when his mother had an accident and he had to return home. The first film Just 19 when he got his first film role, Katrakis started working in theater a few years later with the «Thiaso ton Neon» young actors’ troupe in Pangrati. So devoted was he to his craft that he went absent without leave while serving in the army, hiding out at the theater for seven months before being arrested. In prison he learned that he had been chosen by Fotis Politis in 1931 to perform with the newly formed National Theater. In 1933, while working at the National Theater, he attempted to found his own Laiko Theatro (popular theater). He appeared on stage with the great names of the time: Minotis, Paxinou, Veakis, Glinos, Manolidou and Papadakis. In 1936 Katrakis met Dimitris Mitropoulos, by then a renowned composer, whose friendship had a great effect on the actor. In 1940 he joined the army and fought at the front, returning to Athens the following year to the drama of the German occupation. His salary was so meager he had to sell off personal possessions and even sell fish to make a living. It was at this time that Katrakis aligned himself with the left. Arrested at the Rex Theater in 1947, he was set free after the intervention of entrepreneur Dimitris Helmis. Rearrested two days later, he refused to sign a renunciation of his beliefs and was exiled to Makronisos. His mother, Irini, supported his views and urged him not to sign the declaration. On Makronisos he met the poet Yiannis Ritsos, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. In 1950 he was moved to the island of Ai Stratis, finally gaining permission to return to Athens and the theater in 1950. With Linda Alma Dancer Linda Alma met Katrakis in 1954 at a performance of «Journey’s End.» She congratulated him after the show and they talked till dawn at a cafe near the Acropolis. Alma had fallen madly in love. Her own career was on the verge of international recognition, but her love for Katrakis kept her in Greece. They married in 1979 and Alma was at his side until his death in 1984.

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