Actor (Alexandria, Egypt, 3.8.1928 – Cairo, Egypt, 2.1.1996)
Adel Adham was born in the El Gemarek area of Alexandria. His father had a high-up position in the government, and his mother was originally from Turkey. As a child, Adham was into athletics and then he started doing and excelling in gymnastics. He also boxed, wrestled, and swam, and became well-known in Alexandria and by the nickname The Prince. He stopped playing sports and started acting. Yet Anwar Wagdy saw him and told him that he wasn’t a suitable actor, and that he could only act in front of the mirror. So Adham turned to dancing. He started to learn dance from Aly Rida.
His fair complexion, light brown hair and hazel eyes matched this modern spirit of song, dance and sports, and he was often taken for a foreigner in Alexandria. One summer day in 1945, director Abdel Fattah Hassan and writer Badei Khairi saw him on the beach in Miami, and, making the mistake of others, called him khawaga. His annoyance at the appellation soon turned to delighted surprise when they offered him a part for which his features were suited. When he passed the screen test in Studio Shubra, he gave free reign to his imagination, which took him on a journey to stardom. He saw himself following in the footsteps of his movie heroes: Lee Marvin, John Wayne and Richard Widmark. However, the death of the director and producer of the film Abdel Fattah Hassan also killed his dreams of a cinema career, which ended abruptly there.
He stayed on in Cairo – by then established as the centre of cinema – in the hope of being discovered again. Yet all he managed to land in five years were two dancing parts in Laila, Daughter of the Poor (Laila bint el foqarâ’) in 1945 with Laila Mourad and in Never Came to My Mind (Makansh ‘lbâl) in 1950 with Raqia Ibrahim. Finally he approached his favourite star Anwar Wagdi who totally demolished his aspirations by announcing, “Not all handsome boys become actors. You can only be an actor in front of your mirror.” Humiliated and defeated, he stayed on nevertheless, looking for the chance to prove Anwar Wagdi wrong. But he fell ill and his friend took him back to Alexandria. He accepted an offer in the Cotton Exchange and proceeded to establish a brilliant career for himself. His new job brought him luxury and prestige, but no happiness. On the contrary, he felt that he was wasting his time and that there was another life out there for him. He went to Cairo to visit some friends where he could not resist the desire to pass by his friend director Ali Reda. There, he was introduced to director Ahmed Diaa el Din who was about to start his film Am I Insane? (Hal ana magnounah?). That is how his cinema career took another turn. In the end he will have roles in more than 90 films, from 1940s to 1990s, and received awards from the General Authority for Cinema and the Egyptian Association for Film Writers and Critics. In 1996, he received an award from the Alexandria International Film Festival.
In his long career, Adel Adham played also in three films made in Egypt but that are part of Italian filmography. The comedy Come rubammo la bomba atomica (How We Stole the Atomic Bomb), a 1967 vehicle for comical duo Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, and a co-production Italy-Egypt, featured also Youssef Wahby. The comedy Si può fare molto con sette donne featured also Ahmed Ramzy. Finally, the most notorious is Steno’s Piedone d‘Egitto (Flatfoot in Egypt), part of saga lead by Bud Spencer aka Carlo Pederzoli, also starring Baldwyn Dakile as Bodo and Mahmoud Kabil, where Adham, in the role of Elver Zakar, was doubled in the Italian edition by Sergio Fiorentini, and Kabil by Massimo Turci.
Come rubammo la bomba atomica (Lucio Fulci, 1967, ff, act), Si può fare molto con sette donne (Fabio Piccioni, 1971, ff, act), Piedone d’Egitto (Stefano Vanzina [Steno], 1980, ff, act)
Frame taken from:
Piedone d‘Egitto. Dir. Stefano Vanzina [Steno]. Merope Film, 1980.
Contributors: Leonardo De Franceschi, with Andrea Altieri
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