December 08, 1911 - March 31, 2008
Jules Dassin was an American movie director, noted for his breakthrough films noir, and the father of the famous American-French singer Joe Dassin. Jule's successful film career in Hollywood fell a victim to the blacklisting of the McCarthy era, only to be revived and to reach its pinnacle in France.
The tragic career of Julles Dassin
Dassin was born in Middleton, Connecticut, one of eight children of Samuel Dassin and Bertha Vogel, Russian-Jewish immigrants. Jules started his career at an early age, as an Yiddish actor with the ARTEF (Yiddish Proletarian Theater) company in New York. Quickly he found interest in directing, but had not had an opportunity to work on his own films until the 40s.
Dassin married a New York violinist Béatrice Laune in 1937, with the marriage lasting for more than three decades and producing three children, including Joseph Ira Dassin, better known as Joe Dassin (1938–80), an idol of millions in Europe and the former USSR.
In 1947 he made his breakthrough with “Brute Force” (1947), which was followed by more hits “The Naked City” (1948) and “Thieves' Highway” (1949), that helped him become one of the leading American filmmakers of the postwar era.
His career ended with the McCarthy purges because of his early affiliations with the Communists. After a childhood of living in squalor, he became susceptible to Communist propaganda and in 1930 joined the Communist Party of USA. He left the party in 1939, after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the partition of Poland, but the nine years as an active Communist would come back to haunt him later…
In 1948 Darryl Zanuck, a top executive at the Warner Brothers, called the director to inform him that soon he would be blacklisted and not be able to film another movie in America, so it was a good idea to hurry up with his current projects. Dassin was blacklisted in 1950 in the middle of the filming of “Night and the City” and was not allowed to even enter the premises of the studios in Hollywood.
After two years of not being able to find any work in Hollywood, Dassin was forced to leave for France, where, in 1954, he created his masterpiece: “Rififi”, the father of all modern heist movies, and the inspiration for such classics as “Ocean's Eleven” and “Mission: Impossible”. The film was awarded the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956.
In 1955 Jules Dassin married the popular Greek actress Melina Mercouri, who would star in most of his later films. She awoke passion for Greek culture in her husband, and together they toured the country on several occasions, playing such an important part in the cultural (and political) life of Greece that local authorities awarded him the status of a "first generation Greek". Melina influenced Dassin and his work to such a degree, that the couple became an inseparable creative duo.
Dassin continued his work until the late 60s, and afterwards acted as a member of jury for many important festivals and award ceremonies.
"Jules Dassin - The Life and Films" by Peter Shelley (2008)