Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Never on Sunday (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Never on Sunday (1960, Greece/US) (aka Pote Tin Kyriaki)

In writer/director Jules Dassin's controversial, low-budget, black and white, off-beat, Pygmalion-like romantic comedy (in both English and Greek with subtitles), about a "Happy Street-Walker of Piraeus" (the film's tagline) in Greece (the Athens port city of Piraeus) - the recipient of an X certificate, but with five Academy Awards nominations, including Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Story, and Best Costume Design, and an Oscar for Best Original Song (Never On Sunday):

  • the opening pre-credits sequence (to the tune of the title song in the background) - as exuberant, earthy, free-spirited prostitute Ilya (Oscar-nominated and Cannes Best Actress Melina Mercouri) advertised her sexual wares (but "never on Sunday" - "Every Sunday is open house for my special friends") as she shed her clothes racing down a pier and jumping in the ocean (in a black bra and panties) - followed by many other shipyard workers; it was said of her that she was unlike most whores: "But she makes no prices, and only if she likes you"; she regaled the workers with news that she had customers once per hour - the baker at 9, the fruit man at 10, and the butcher at 11
  • Ilya's co-star: Homer Thrace (director Dassin himself, who later married his female star) - an uptight American tourist and classical Greek scholar (he called himself "an amateur philosopher") from Middletown, Connecticut, who had his first glimpse of Ilya as his ship was docking, and she was leading a pack of swimmers to greet his vessel - he noted: "There is the purity that was Greece"
  • the film's theme song, featuring Greek music (highlighting the traditional bouzouki instrument played by the locals) heard during the credits
  • in a cafe, Homer's statement that he was looking for something very specific in Greece: "I came to Greece to find the truth....Our world is unhappy. Why? Where did it begin to go wrong? Might not the traces be here? No society ever reached the heights that were attained by ancient Greece. It was a cradle of culture. It was a happy country. What happened? What made it fall? Historians don't satisfy me. Wars, politics, something's missing. Something personal. I want to walk where Aristotle walked. And Socrates. I can't explain it, but I don't know. I have a feeling I'll find something"
Beginning of Attraction Between Ilya and Homer
Homer: "The personification. Her, the answer to the mystery.
A personal equation of the fall of ancient Greece."
  • and then when Ilya went off with a sailor-customer, Homer had an inspiration: "Maybe that's what I'm looking for. What luck! Ilya - the symbol of my quest. The personification. Her, the answer to the mystery. A personal equation of the fall of ancient Greece"; later at her door, he told her: "You are the beauty that was Greece. You are the reason I came to Greece" - and the next morning, he pursued her
  • on one of her Sunday open-houses (her birthday), Ilya entertained her "special friends", including Homer, who realized she truly loved classic Greek tragedies, but he was aghast that she would change their endings to make them happy; he surmised that Ilya was unhappy with her lifestyle - "A whore can't be happy. A whorish world can't be happy! I'd like to reach her mind....(with) reason, in place of fantasy. Morality, instead of immorality. I've got to educate her. Transform her...Ilya is lovely. But for me, she's not a woman; she's an idea. She's an outlaw. Yes! Can't you see? The law must be re-established everywhere"; he overheard her reciting another changed, happy ending to her friends: ("And they all go to the seashore!")
  • their attendance in the open-air Greek amphitheatre, where she stared at the blank stage, and then they watched Euripedes' tragic Greek play Medea - with her great pleasure (without being dismayed by Medea killing her children); afterwards, during a visit to the Acropolis, he couldn't believe she would change the tragic endings, and then he became more personal about her lifestyle - he revealed his real intent - to uplift Ilya's morals, save and reform her: "What happened to you? All evil is disharmony. You are in disharmony with yourself. You have beauty, grace, and you are --- I, American Boy Scout, I will bring you back to harmony...I'm fighting for your soul, listen to me"
At an Open-Air Greek Amphitheatre and at Acropolis
  • Homer's proposition: for two weeks, Ilya had to agree to stop prostituting herself to study the beauty of Greek culture and history: "Beauty that was Greece - give me two weeks of your life...I want every minute of two weeks...If in the end of two weeks, you don't begin to think my way, I'll disappear...I'll make you see a world you never knew about...You'll be reborn. Ilya, two little weeks"
  • during the two week period, Ilya entertained herself - she placed a small record player on her bed to play the film's instrumental theme song, as she sang and danced barefooted to the music while clicking her fingers to the beat
Homer's Confession and Departure
"I've been dying to sleep with her...From the first minute"
Homer Departing From Port
  • in the conclusion, Ilya's free-spirited nature overcame Homer's retraining, and his personality was the one that was transformed; he finally admitted to her that he was in love with her sensual nature: "I've been dying to sleep with her...From the first minute" - but it was too late, for she had found love with Tonio (Giorgos Foundas); Homer waved to her as she and others jumped in the water from a boat in the harbor (a mirror to the opening scene) as he departed from the Piraeus port (and threw his academic notepad into the water)

Ilya Shedding Clothes and Racing to Pier to Jump Into Ocean

Homer Viewing Ilya: "There is the purity that was Greece"

Homer to Ilya: "You are the beauty that was Greece"

Homer Pursuing Ilya

During Birthday Open House: Ilya Changing Endings of Greek Tragedies to Make Them Happy

Semi-Nude With One of Her Clients-Lovers

Homer's Proposition: Ilya's Two Week Period of Abstinence


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