Jules Dassin

Jules Dassin

Jules Dassin (right) with son Joe in Paris in 1970
Born Julius Dassin
(1911-12-18)December 18, 1911
Middletown, Connecticut, U.S.
Died March 31, 2008(2008-03-31) (aged 96)
Athens, Greece
Spouse(s) Béatrice Launer (1937–1962; divorced)
Melina Mercouri (1966–1994; her death)
Children Joseph Ira Dassin
Richelle Dassin
Julie Dassin

Julius "Jules" Dassin (December 18, 1911 – March 31, 2008) was an American film director, producer, writer and actor. He was a subject of the Hollywood blacklist in the McCarthy era, and subsequently moved to France, where he revived his career.

Early life

Dassin was born in Middletown, Connecticut, one of eight children of Berthe Vogel and Samuel Dassin, a barber. His family was of Ukrainian and Polish-Jewish extraction. Dassin grew up in Harlem and went to Morris High School in the Bronx. He joined the Communist Party USA in the 1930s and left it after the Hitler–Stalin Pact in 1939. He started as a Yiddish actor with the ARTEF (Yiddish Proletarian Theater) company in New York. He collaborated on a film with Jack Skurnick that was incomplete because of Skurnick's early death.


Dassin quickly became better known for his noir films Brute Force (1947), The Naked City (1948), and Thieves' Highway (1949), which helped him to become "one of the leading American filmmakers of the postwar era."[1]

Dassin's most influential film was Rififi (1955), an early work in the "heist film" genre. It inspired later heist films, such as Ocean's Eleven (1960).[1] Another piece it inspired was Dassin's own heist film Topkapi, filmed in France and Istanbul, Turkey with Melina Mercouri and Oscar winner Peter Ustinov.

Hollywood Blacklist

Main article: Hollywood Blacklist

Dassin said Darryl F. Zanuck in 1948 called him into his office to inform him he would be blacklisted, but he still had enough time to make a movie for Fox.[2] Dassin was blacklisted in Hollywood during the production of Night and the City (1950).[3] He was not allowed on the studio property to edit or oversee the musical score for the film.[4] He also had trouble finding work abroad, as U.S. distribution companies blacklisted the U.S. distribution of any European film associated with artists blacklisted in Hollywood. In 1952, after Dassin had been out of work for two years, actress Bette Davis hired him to direct her in the Broadway revue Two's Company. The show closed early, however, and Dassin left for Europe. Dassin did not work as a film director again until Rififi in 1954 (a French production). Most of Dassin's films in the decades following the blacklist are European productions.[1] His prolific later career in Europe and the affiliation with Greece through his second wife, combined with a common pronunciation of his surname as "Da-SAN" in Europe, as opposed to "DASS-in" in the United States leads to a common misconception that he was a European director.[4]

Personal life

Joe and Jules Dassin with Béatrice Launer in Paris in 1970

Jules Dassin was married twice:

Affiliation with Greece

He was considered a major Philhellene to the point of Greek officials describing him as a "first generation Greek." Along with his second wife Melina Mercouri, he opposed the Greek military junta. A major supporter of the return of the Elgin Marbles to Athens, for which he established the Melina Mercouri Institution in her memory, he missed the opening ceremony of the New Acropolis Museum by only a few months owing to his death at the age of 96.[8] He died from complications from a case of flu; he is survived by his two daughters and his grandchildren.

Upon his death, the Greek prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, released a statement: "Greece mourns the loss of a rare human being, a significant artist and true friend. His passion, his relentless creative energy, his fighting spirit and his nobility will remain unforgettable."[1]

Awards and honors

For his 1955 film Rififi, Dassin earned the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.[1] His 1960 film Never on Sunday earned the music Academy Award (Manos Hadjidakis,(Greek: Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά), Ta Paidia tou Peiraia), and the Cannes Film Festival best actress award (Melina Mercouri).[8][9] In 1982, he was a member of the jury at the 34th Berlin International Film Festival.[10]


The Academy Film Archive preserved Jules Dassin's film "Night and the City," including the British and pre-release versions.[11]


Year Film Credited as
Director Producer Writer Actor Role
1941 The Tell-Tale Heart Yes
1942 Nazi Agent Yes
The Affairs of Martha Yes
Reunion in France Yes
1943 Young Ideas Yes
1944 The Canterville Ghost Yes
1946 Two Smart People Yes
A Letter for Evie Yes
1947 Brute Force Yes
1948 The Naked City Yes
1949 Thieves' Highway Yes
1950 Night and the City Yes
1955 Rififi Yes Yes Yes César le Milanais
1957 He Who Must Die Yes Yes
1959 The Law Yes Yes
1960 Never on Sunday Yes Yes Yes Yes Homer Thrace
1962 Phaedra Yes Yes Yes Yes Christo
1964 Topkapı Yes Yes Yes Turkish cop
1966 10:30 P.M. Summer Yes Yes Yes
1968 Survival 1967 Yes Yes
Uptight Yes Yes Yes
1970 Promise at Dawn Yes Yes Yes Yes Ivan Mozzhukhin
1974 The Rehearsal Yes Yes Yes
1978 A Dream of Passion Yes Yes Yes
1980 Circle of Two Yes


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Luther, Claudia (April 1, 2008). "Noir master directed caper classic 'Rififi'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  2. Cineaste, Dan Georgakas, spring 2007, p.72
  3. The film was shot in 1949, see Duncan, Paul (July 2, 2014). "Why I Love: Night and the City (1950)". Port. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  4. 1 2 Dassin, Jules (February 1, 2005). Night and the City (post-screening interview in DVD supplements). Criterion Collection.
  5. Beatrice Dassin. Genealogy Bank. Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  6. The Juilliard School of Music, "The Baton", p. 12 Archived May 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Julie D.. Rateyourmusic.com (July 19, 1945). Retrieved on July 26, 2015.
  8. 1 2 (Greek) Skai News, Απεβίωσε ο Ζυλ Ντασέν (Jules Dassin died), English (machine translation) Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
  9. Internet Movie Database, Pote tin Kyriaki (1960), Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
  10. "Berlinale: 1984 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  11. "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
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