Samia Gamal Interview - Nora, part 2
Here I provide you with a translation of a third part of a four piece interview with Samia Gamal for Nora magazine (February 9th 1995). As I have only two parts of the interview (first and third), I decided to name it as "Part 2". The Translation was provided by Karim. Big thanks!
The Memories Bag
Farid El-Atrash was afraid to assign me the leading role in the first film he produced.
Farid used to resort to procrastination and postponement whenever I approached him about our marriage.
I acted in different foreign and international films.
I learned from life to speak in French, English and Italian.
And I continue to turn the pages of the memories that late artist Samia Gamal told me… And this week’s pages in which she narrates her artistic and emotional connection with the love of her life; the late musician Farid El-Atrash.
I say to Samia: So “Farid El-Atrash Films” wasn’t the one that presented you to the public as an actress and an artist?
After I appeared in the films in which the musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab nominated me for the title role, the love bonds increased between Farid El-Atrash and me, at some point. After Farid starred in one or two films that were neither financially nor technically successful, he went through a period of stagnation. He no longer had any film to appear in. In a family gathering where his friend Abd El-Salam El-Nabulsi was present, Farid said he wanted to open an office, establish a film company, and produce films for his own. And he actually implemented the idea, and director Henry Barakat chose for him a story “Habib El-Omr”, and Barakat had drawn the role of the lead character in the film based on me, because he as a director felt my artistic efforts. Still, when he nominated me for the film’s lead, Farid El-Atrash strongly opposed this nomination and insisted that he assign the lead role in the movie “Habib El-Omr” to a truly famous actress. The director took on his embrace to address Farid’s stubbornness. Indeed, he remained after him until he convinced him that I would play the lead role in the film “Habib El-Omar”. Then the film was shown, and it achieved legendary success. Nevertheless, Farid remained to assign the lead roles to me in his films based on strong insistence from distributors, not because I’m the love of his life…
Would you agree now to star in a movie that tells the story of your life and Farid El-Atrash? And who is the singer you would nominate to play his role? And without taking time to think for an answer, she said:
I don’t agree at all. Because Farid El-Atrash cannot be replaced and cannot be exchanged by another singer, no singer can embody Farid’s personality. He may be distinguished over him by his personality and the quality of his acting. But definitely, he will not make me feel what I was feeling while standing in front of Farid El-Atrash, with whom my story was long, tragic in some aspects, and funny in other aspects.
To make the talk a little humorous, I asked Samia Gamal: Do you remember something from the funny aspect of this story?
I have a lot of memories. For example, he enjoyed walking together every night on Gabalaya street in Zamalek near his house. Large trees were rising on the sides of this street, and when the summer season came, their branches stretched further and looked as if they were in the street from the beginning.
Farid used to call this Gabalaya street “The Street of Love” and insisted that we walk on it every night. Once we were walking normally, we found a soldier of the “night’s guards” passed by us on his bike and shouted at Farid: Behave Mr. and go back to your home! We did not pay any attention to him. We said that he was just a person who wants to have fun, but the soldier soon came back and told Farid the same sentence that he said. We also fell silent, but he returned for the third time. Here Farid became rebellious and furious and determined to have the soldier arrested. When the soldier discovered that he is in front of Farid El Atrash and Samia Gamal themselves, he made an apology after an apology. Still, Farid decided to take the soldier to the police station and file a report for him. My attempts to calm his nerves down and make him change his resolve were of no use. And we really went, he, the soldier and I, to the Zamalek police station.
And I asked: Did he file a report for him?
When we got to the station, Farid asked about the principal officer. So the soldier who’s with us excused us for a moment, as he went out and parked his bike aside, then sat behind the desk and said to Farid: I am the main officer, Sir!, and it became clear to us that he is really the principal officer of the police station, and with that Farid insisted on his opinion and said to him: Open a report, and record your name, age, work and profession… And this was the first time in my life that I saw a policeman filing a report against himself!
Was the dispute that occurred between you and Farid El-Atrash that led to your separation was the reason why he refused to marry you?
No… that was not the reason for our separation… And I confess that I'm the one who insisted on getting married, although he didn't refuse to marry me. But he resorted to procrastination and postponement. After the movie "Habib El-Omr" we were totally connected. I kept reminding him every time about the story of marriage, so he promised me that it would take place after a week or two. Then he would forget, and his forgetting continued for many years. In any case, the Farid El-Atrash who refused to marry me never married.
You have acted in foreign films. Was it your ambition to be an international star? And with self-confidence, she answers:
I could have turned into a world star, and I really had the opportunity in 1952 to reach this "glow", but I refused it. I was offered to play the lead role in an international movie. Still, the part that was drawn for me in this movie was possible to excite my country's people to strip from their hearts any love for me. From here, I refused to act in this film. I had a second chance when I appeared as the lead actress of the movie "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" with the famous star Fernandel. I accepted to act in this French-speaking film which I am not good at, at all (French language). As the film had a little dialogue, I used to memorize the phrases of the dialogue and record them at a leisurely pace and then a mix would happen between it and the picture, which is a montage process.
So you faced difficulties while you were filming in a language you don't know? She laughed and said:
Many difficulties, the most major problem is that the director of the film was furious. I clashed with him more than once because he insisted that my French phrases must be pronounced correctly and without any error. Finally, I relented, and I was able to adjust my pronunciation of the French words. Then I took the opportunity to take revenge on the director.
And did you take your revenge?
Of course, I was filming a scene of Fernandel and me. In this scene, Fernandel called me by my name. While I was memorizing the script for the film, I knew that this was wrong because he did not know my name yet. With that, I ignored it, and I left the director to re-film the scene once, twice, three times. Then when he gave the order to print the scene, I came to him and alerted him to the mistake, so he started pulling his hair out of rage. He apologized to me for the nervousness that he had treated me with.
Was that the last international film you did?
No, there was a third movie that I appeared in, "The Valley of Kings", starring Robert Taylor.
You speak excellent English and French, where did you learn?
From life, I did not only learn French and English, but also Italian, which I can speak easily, and I learned it when I went to Italy one day and stayed in the same hotel that I used to stay in whenever I went to Rome. I, by nature, do not like to change places that I love, nor friends, those who I like. It was my habit to address the hotel staff in the English language that I am good at, but I was surprised this time that they refused to speak to me except in Italian, and I understood from the hotel manager that a decision was issued by the government not to talk with tourists and visitors except in the language of the country. And so I began to memorize Italian words until I was able to communicate with them. This was my concern at the beginning of my artistic life when I stayed in a hotel owned by Swiss people who spoke French, so I had to understand it and had difficulty learning it. As for the English language, my life's wish was to learn it because I watched a lot of American films. When I started working on my career, it was when the Second World War broke out. I dealt with many British and American people. I was able to understand the principles of this language. Then I managed it after my marriage to an American man.
But did you know English when you worked for a while in the USA? And she smiled when she remembered the story:
When I was in the USA, I pretended that I did not understand the English language when I heard unpleasant words. I remember that I was in the "Latin Quarter" club on Broadway in New York. When I succeeded in it, the owners wanted to transfer me to another club they owned. Still, the club was closed, and I disagreed with this transfer. When I informed my manager, "Ambrasrio", he told me that he would speak with the nightclub director about the matter. He advised me to pretend I was ignorant of the English language and discuss with him. And indeed, the discussion happened. My manager told the club's manager that I refused to move to his other club. Here the club manager said to him: I am talking to her, and not with you, and spontaneously and without knowing, I told him in English, "But I don't speak English", and the club manager burst out laughing, and I changed my transfer, and since that day I no longer pretend to be ignorant of English.
Samia Gamal has a rich artistic history.
And this history cannot be shortened.
Nada Badie’a Serbe (Translation by Karim)