What a name . . . what a face.
Gypsy Marpessa Dawn Menor
I feel really stupid. Yesterday I found out that one of my favorite Reggae artists Mikey Dread passed away 3 years ago, and I was unaware. Now I find out that one of my favorite film stars also passed away that same summer. It seems like just yesterday I was furiously Googling to find some news about the aged actress who played Eurydice in Black Orpheus (1959), but it was the early summer of 2008 actually, so I was trying to find news about her just months before she died.
She has always been a beautiful mystery. I was very curious about her after I first saw the film in the 1980’s. She was speaking fluent Portuguese and I had no idea she was from Pittsburgh, PA originally. After Black Orpheus she was in some bizarre leftish French art films. I saw one just because she was in it: Sweet Movie (1974) which was awful, but have not been able to see any others. Black Orpheus was a great awakening for me. It made me realize what a good director can do with film as an art form. The movie brings together so many themes that have haunted me ever since – Brazilian Samba, life after death, Greek myth, street parade spectacle, masquerade, all set before the viewer in a swirl of color and insistent rhythm. It is one of a handful of films I recommend to anyone who likes film as art.
Another favorite film of mine, Soy Cuba, featured a Cuban actress named Luz María Collazo. For a long time I thought it was Marpessa Dawn until checking the cast list for that Soviet/Cuban propaganda film. The film is a lot like Triumph of the Will (1934 Nazi rally) and Olympia (1938) filmed by Leni Riefenstahl in that it is blatant propaganda for a political ideology, but the filmmakers render it so visually striking that it endures as cinema art long after the cause has been discredited. I recommend Soy Cuba as well as Triumph of the Will if you love film and history.
So what does this have to do with poetry? Nothing – and everything.
Just read the poem of her name out loud: