b. 31 December 1923, Thessaloniki, Greece
d. 16 October 2010, Piraeus, Greece

Before the emergence of Theo Angelopoulos in the mid-1970s, Greek Cinema was largely unknown to international cinephiles despite a booming domestic market throughout the ‘50s and ’60s. This period of prosperity, known as the “Golden Age”, produced several gifted filmmakers, such as Maria Plyta, Michael Cacoyiannis, and Vasilis Georgiadis,  who were revered in their day but have since been forgotten. While I acknowledge their contributions, the most crucial figure of the era is Yannis Dalianidis.

Honoured as a “national film hero”,1 Dalianidis remains Greece’s most prolific writer/director, making 74 features across many genres – comedy, melodrama and musicals between 1959 and 1988. His work, irrespective of the genre, was generally adored by the filmgoing public, especially in the ‘60s when he topped the domestic box office six years in a row (1961-1966), but was conversely, looked down upon by critics for introducing Hollywood modes of filmmaking into Greece and presenting a false reality. For example, the films set in Dalianidis’ hometown of Thessaloniki neglect to show the city’s poverty. By contrast, Dalianidis’ work remains entirely obscure outside of Greece, I hope this profile can serve as a sufficient introduction to his oeuvre and inspire further discovery.

Yiannis Dalianidis’ directorial career began in 1959 with I Mousitsa (The Little Vixen); however, it wasn’t until he started working at Finos Film that a great director was born. Established by Filopimin Finos in 1942, Finos Film was the dominant production house during Greece’s Golden Age and one of the most prolific in southeast Europe. In 1960, while directing comedies for a rival studio, Finos approached Dalianidis with a unique proposition. On a trip to Paris, the producer saw the Bridgette Bardot vehicle La verité (The Truth, Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1959) and hoped that Dalianidis could make a similar youth-centric melodrama for Greek audiences starring their analogue to Bardot, Aliki Vougiouklaki. As fate would have it, Dalianidis had already written a youth drama, O Katiforos (The Downfall, 1961) and gave the script to Finos with a warning that Vougiouklaki wasn’t suitable for the lead role – “A new venture needs new faces to match”.2 To give Finos the time to search for new talent, Dalianidis was allowed to direct another script, Ziteitai Pseftis (Liar Wanted, 1961), a political satire notable for being Dalianidis’ first collaboration with cinematographer Nikos Dimopoulos, with whom he collaborated further 23 times. 

O Katiforos

Dalianidis directed two comedies for Finos before O Katiforos finally began production with Zoe Lascari in the lead. A former Miss Greece winner, Lascari made her on-screen debut in the film. She would ultimately prove herself to be Dalianidis’ most treasured collaborator starring in eleven melodramas, seven musicals and three comedies. Their alliance is one shrouded in mystique as Dalianidis, a closeted homosexual throughout his life, morphed Lascari into his cinematic alter-ego, a voluptuous vessel through which he could explore his latent same-sex attraction without exposing himself to the masses.  Often, Lascari’s body was an object of turmoil; such is the case in O Katiforos’ when Rea (Laskari) is stripped bare and humiliated by Kostas (Nikos Kourkoulos), a jealous lothario for daring to look at another man.  Presumably, this scene attracted the attention of Chancellor Films, who distributed the film to American grindhouses under the title Spoiled Rotten

Unfairly marketed as a Mondo picture to American audiences, O Katiforos is a compassionate examination of the new challenges the youth of the 1960s faced and the subsequent failure of their parents to understand and assuage their pressures. Throughout his filmography, Dalianidis periodically investigated society’s impact on the youth to uncover who or what was responsible for their downfall. In his 1960s melodramas, the director concludes that it’s parents who were responsible for their children’s adversity through their patriarchal impotence or tyranny. Matriarchs weren’t exempt from blame, either. In fact, Elli’s mother from Illigos (Vertigo, 1964) –might be the worst. When her fiancé Nikos expresses an obsessive attraction to her daughter, Elli’s mother, fearing abandonment by her male suitor, tosses the object of his desire onto the street. She comes to her senses though it’s too late, as Nikos attempts to rape Elli, resulting in his murder and her subsequent incarceration. 

Merikoi to Protimoun Kyro…

After O Katiforos came first place in the 1961-1962 box office, Finos gave Dalianidis free rein of the dream factory, allowing him to make whatever he wanted. Dalianidis, a choreographer and chorist prior to becoming a filmmaker, used this opportunity to direct the first Greek movie musical.  In an interview for the TV program The Love Of The Closeup, Dalianidis recalls watching West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961) in a theatre and observing how the patrons used the musical numbers as signals to take a smoking break. Acutely aware that too many musical numbers may deter a Greek audience, Dalianidis limited the integration of musical numbers and often followed up songs with comic sketches to replicate the Greek theatrical tradition known as ‘epitheorisi’. For the score, Dalianidis called upon Mimis Plessas, with whom he previously worked; Finos considered Plessas’ compositions too modern, but Dalianidis persuaded his producer otherwise. Plessas would go on to compose the score for all but one Dalianidis musical. 

Just as O Katiforos had the year priorMerikoi to Protimoun Kyro… (Some Like It Cold, 1962), topped the 1962-1963 box office, enchanting audiences while receiving mixed reviews from critics. One particularly scathing review from Theatro read:

“The musical is a new genre that was launched by our commercial cinema. Inexpert imitation of the American original … it is only an expansion of the theatrical summer comedy. The musical reproduces the weak plots and the cheap comic situations [of theatrical comedy] and enriches them with dance numbers and songs.”3

Merikoi to Protumoun Kyro… is far from Dalianidis’ best musical. Still, it’s not without bountiful pleasures, particularly the performances by actors Rena Vlahopoulou and Dinos Iliopoulos that bounce off the screen. Two years after Merikoi to Protimoun to Kyro…, Dalianidis reunited this pairing in his second musical, Kati na Kei (Something Burning, 1964). The first of his musicals to be shot in CinemaScope, the panoramic views of Thessaloniki, coupled with the eye-popping use of Eastmancolour, lend the film a distinctly “international look” that “could’ve been American, French or anything.”4 Dalianidis used Cinemascope and Eastmancolour in his following musicals: Koritsia gia Filima (Girls For Kissing, 1965) and Rendez-vous ston Aera (Rendez-vous On Air, 1966).

Koritsia gia Filima

Except for his West Side Story anecdote, Dalianidis seldom spoke about the American films that influenced him, choosing instead to pay homage through replication or subversion of their iconography. In Koritsia gia Filima, he does both. While Dalianidis’  replication of the paint-palette set-piece from Artists And Models (Frank Tashlin, 1955) is impressive, his most revealing tribute comes as a dream sequence starring Zoi Lascari.  On the run with her lover, Jenny tells him her dream of becoming an actress named Jenny Blonde. Her name is spelled in neon lights before the screen fades into a candy-apple red backdrop, preparing viewers for Dalianidis’ subversion of the Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend from Gentleman Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953), with Lascari’s body once again as the main attraction.

Following Koritsia gia Filima, Dalianidis directed Istoria mias Zois (Story Of A Life, 1965), a haunting melodrama told in four interlinked parts centring on the life of a young woman as she tries to exist within the phallocentric Modern Greek society. Notably, it is one of the few Finos Films without a tacked-on silver-lining ending; I’ve been unable to track down reviews from the time, so I can only assume reactions to this ending prompted Dalianidis to shoot two endings for his next melodrama, 1966’s I Stefania sto Anamorfotiro (Stephanie At The Reformatory). Based on a novel by Nellis Theodorou, adapting I Stefania was considered a bold move due to the confronting scenes of violence and implied lesbianism found in the text. Hoping to strike a balance between the daring and the dignified, Dalianidis shot two endings to cater to differing audience expectations: one happy ending (for provincial audiences) in which Stefania (Lascari) leaves the reformatory to find happiness and one distressing ending (for Athenian audiences and international distributors) where Stefania gets sexually strangled to death by an obsessed corrections officer. Like O Katiforos, Chancellor Films picked up I Stefania for distribution in American grindhouses.

Oi Thalassies oi Hantres

After the success of the Aliki Vougiouklaki musical Diplopennies (Dancing The Sitatarki, George Skalenakis, 1966) abroad, Finos decided that he too wanted to tap into the foreign market and added provisions to Dalianidis fifth musical – the director was to abandon CinemaScope and incorporate more Greek elements into the work. Oi Thalassies oi Hantres (The Blue Beads Of Greece, 1967) ushered in the second phase of Dalianidis musicals in which he would incorporate more Greek musical stylings and dances into his films, culminating in some impressive sequences. One such moment is when Dalianidis seamlessly cuts between the inverted image of dancer Giorgos Provias performing a zeibekiko and a clear image of actor Faidon Georgitsis doing the same. Finos’ intuition paid off, as Oi Thalassies oi Hantres screened out of competition at Cannes and later received a theatrical release in France. Despite the film’s success, no future Dalianidis films received distribution there.

In 1969, Dalianidis deviated from his comedy-musical formula to make one of the most strikingly original films in the Finos canon. Based on Iakovos Campanelli’s play Neighbourhood of Angels, Gymnoi sto Dromo (Naked On the Streets, 1969) isn’t a traditional musical as the leads, played by Nikos Kourkoulos and Zoi Lascari (in their post-O Katiforos reunion), don’t sing. A few songs are scattered throughout the film, mainly performed by the chorus of the town community but it’s Stavros Xarchakos crashing score that propels the narrative, granting it status as a movie musical. Initially, when Dalianidis devised the concept amid the Junta in 1968, he wanted Mikis Theodorakis to compose the score; however, on the eve of production, there was a ban on Theodorakis’s music as the composer called for resistance against the dictatorship. Working synchronously with Xarchakos’ score is Nikos Dimopoulos’ hypnotic camera work; his vivid colour palette chains the actor’s body to immobility, mirroring how past traumas have rendered the characters paralytic in the present. Unfortunately, Gymnoi sto Dromo was a commercial failure, ensuring Finos wouldn’t allow Dalianidis to experiment with the dramatic musical again. 

Gymnoi sto Dromo

An intensely private man, Dalianidis evaded questions about his personal life throughout much of his career and only began answering them towards the end. The most shocking revelations that arose from these interviews are details of his adoption, as well as those about his time spent in a concentration camp. In an interview with friend Christos Paridis, published posthumously by Lifo, Dalianidis remarks:

“Only in the last few years have I made allusions to some horrible aspects of my life. I used to not even talk about them. Something repelled them. Not only did I not want to get in shape, but I didn’t even want others to suspect I could be a hero. I always wanted to be the man next door who only had pleasant things to say. That’s why this side of me doesn’t appear in my work.”5

He goes on in the same interview to acknowledge that he did make one film based on his personal experiences, the war drama Aftoi pou Milisan me ton Thanato (Those Who Spoke With Death, 1970).  His first film of the 70s, Aftoi pou Milisan me ton Thanato, is perhaps, Dalianidis’ most mature work, a sensitively told account of the Occupation that transcends the other war films of the era, especially Ypolohagos Natassa (Lieutenant Natassa, Nikos Foskolos 1970. What makes the film unique is how it portrays everyday life during the Occupation in almost clinical detail; Dalianidis even intersperses archival footage at the beginning of the film to remind audiences that what they’re watching isn’t merely a work of fiction but a lived-in experience. This would be Dalianidis’ third and final collaboration with Yorgos Arvantis, who went on to become the principal cinematographer for Theo Angelopoulos. It must be noted that Daliandis was extremely fortunate throughout his career to find himself working beside collaborators (actors, cinematographers, composers) who understood and could aid his vision.

O Asterismos tis Parthenou

In 1971, Dalianidis returned to his youth drama roots with Oi Amartoloi (The Sinners, 1971). Almost banned upon release, Oi Amartoloi was an incredibly provocative film about the sex industry depicting drug use, male sex work and the first-ever erotic threesome in a mainstream Greek film. Finos, who prided himself on his middle-class respectability, was displeased with the result, and it’s since been eliminated from the official Finos Film Canon. Two years later, Dalianidis made another film about the sex industry, O Asterismos tis Parthenou (Under the Sign of Virgo, 1973). In this portmanteau, Zoi Laskari (in her penultimate collaboration with the director) plays a sex worker who, over three interconnected parts, tells her clients real or imagined stories of how she got involved with the profession. Even though the script was written by famous director Yorgos Tzavellas in 1966, it explored social dilemmas still relevant in 1973, i.e., the claustrophobia of poverty, the false equivalence between virginity and virtue and self-sacrifice as a means of self-preservation. This would be Dalianidis’ final Finos-produced film to address contemporary social issues; the remainder of their collaborations leading up to the producer’s death in 1977 were all frivolous comedies, made quickly in a desperate attempt to court an audience that was already transitioning to television. His final Finos film, Oi Kyr’ Giorgis Ekpaidevetai (Training Mr Giorgis, 1977), was nothing more than a feature-length sketch based on a character from the variety show To Louna Park (Luna Park, 1974-1980), which Dalianidis created. 

Ta Tsakalia

After Finos passed away in 1977, Dalianidis took a break from the cinema to focus solely on his TV series To Louna Park. Four years later, he entered a contract with Karagiannis-Karazopoulos that saw him return to direct four comedies and five dramas before switching his focus entirely to television in 1988. The comedies from this era, especially his last, Peraste, Filiste, Teleiosate (Come In, Give Us a Kiss, You are Done , 1986), abandon the vibrant spatial compositions from his 60s output and replace them with a flat made for TV look. Conversely, Dalianidis’ youth dramas continue to commendably probe who or what is the cause of youth corruption. In the 1980s, parents are no longer to blame for their children’s bad behaviours. Instead, it’s the proliferation of drugs and rampant consumerism that are turning their children into rowdy no-hopers.  In Ta Tsakalia (The Jackals, 1981), Daliandis’ camera bursts with virility as it lingers over every crevice of Yorgos’ (Panos Mihalopoulos) body as he debases himself with drugs and steals money from his father so he can Zündapp motorcycle. Only after the death of his friend does Yorgos wake up to himself. Following the successes of Ta Tsakalia, Dalianidis made I Strofi (The Turn, 1982), also starring Mihalopoulos, which explored addiction with startling authenticity.

By 1988, the accessibility of new mediums such as television and videocassettes meant audiences were no longer going to cinemas like they used to; with dwindling ticket sales, many filmmakers transitioned to making at-home entertainment as a means of self-preservation.  When Dalianidis made this transition in 1988, he immediately lost his ability to establish frames and thus lost his singularity as a director. His static camera work and erratic editing on his final feature Isovia (Life Sentence, 1988), coupled with the disturbing narrative about a man who turns to rape as a result of childhood sexual trauma, was the death knell.

Almost 40 years later, in a twist of fate, the medium that killed Dalianidis’ film career now keeps it alive through syndication, allowing young generations to escape into the Golden Age and witness the multifaceted director Dalianidis was. There is hope that through the superb writing about Dalianidis in English by academics Lydia Papadimitriou and Vrasidas Karalis, Dalianidis’ achievements may one day be recognised abroad, too. 

Select Filmography

  • Ziteitai Pseftis (Liar Wanted, 1961)
  • O Katiforos (The Downfall, 1961)
  • Merikoi to Protimoun Kyro … (Some Like It Cold, 1962)
  • Illigos (Vertigo, 1994)
  • Kati na Kei (Something Burning, 1964).
  • Koritsia gia Filima (Girls For Kissing, 1965)
  • Istoria gia Zois (Story Of A Lifetime, 1965) 
  • Dakrya gia tin Ilektra (Tears For Electra, 1966)
  • I Stefania sto Anamorfotiro (Stephanie At The Reformatory, 1966)
  • Oi Thalassies oi Hadres (The Blue Beads From Greece, 1967) 
  • Gorgones kai Manges (Mermaids And Rascals, 1968)
  • Gymnoi sto Dromo (Naked In The Street, 1969)
  • Aftoi pou Milisan me to Thanato (Those Who Spoke With Death, 1970)
  • Oi Amartoloi (The Sinners, 1971)
  • O Asterismos tis Parthenou (Under the Sign of Virgo, 1973)
  • Oi Kyr’ Giorgis Ekpaidevetai (Training Mr Giorgis, 1977)
  • Ta Tsakalia (The Jackals, 1981)
  • Vasika… Kalispera Sas (To Start With… Good Morning, 1982)
  • I Strofi (The Turn, 1982) 
  • Isovia (Life Sentence, 1988)


  • Karalis, Vrasidas, A History Of Greek Cinema (London; Bloomsbury, 2013)
  • Karalis, Vrasidas, Realism in Greek Cinema: From the Post-War Period to the Present (London; I.B. Tauris, 2017) 
  • Papadimitriou, Lydia, The Greek Film Musical: A Critical And Cultural History (North Carolina, McFarland, 2005)


  1. Honoured as a “national film hero” at the 2002 Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  2. Georgoula, Dido, “Yannis Dalianidis – 16 October 2010”, ERT News, October 15 2020
  3. Papadimitriou, Lydia, The Greek Film Musical: A Critical And Cultural History (North Carolina, McFarland, 2005), pg.63
  4. Papadimitriou, Lydia, The Greek Film Musical: A Critical And Cultural History (North Carolina, McFarland, 2005), pg. 74
  5. Paradis, Christos,  “Interviews: Yannis Dalianidis (1923-2010)“, Lifo, October 20 2010

About The Author

Frankie Kanatas is a Greek-Australian filmmaker, writer, and critic. An ardent admirer of movie musicals and “Golden Age” Greek Cinema, he is preparing a study on the films of Yannis Dalianidis.

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