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The Movie Miracle: From Stardom to Obscurity



Fairouz: Who Can Convince Her to Return to her Public Again?



Written by Khaled Btarawi


Translated By Priscilla Adum


This is a translation of an article by Khaled Btarawi that originally appeared in Arabic at on April 1, 2010.




The little girl Katcouta sat on the edge of her grandfather's bed. With all her innocence and shock at the father who left her at an orphanage and who abandoned her mother because she did not give birth to a boy, she said to her grandfather: "It's not permitted, my grandfather, to deprive me of your affection and to throw me to the street among the hungry dogs and cats." Then when she tried to kiss him while he slept, his moustache bothered her so she cut it and her grandfather woke up in surprise. He hugged her to his breast after he realized that she was his long lost granddaughter and told her that he would not leave her ever again. However, when he went to swear it by by his moustache he found that his moustache was gone. She told him "The cat ate your moustache," and he laughed and asked her "How did you manage to cut off my moustache that I've had for 30 years?"

She said to him, "Instead of growing your moustache you should have raised me, Grandfather," and he hugged her tenderly and cried.


This touching scene, created by a famous director, has remained in the public's memory for many years — not only because of its intense feelings and sense of humanity, but also because the miracle child uttered these words with so much emotion, feeling every letter of every word.

The film is Yasmin and the child is Fairouz. [The above photo is a still image from that scene.] The director is Anwar Wagdy who 60 years ago took a huge risk that the cinema industry described as lunacy, a risk which could have led him to bankruptcy, when he gave the lead role in his film to a child who was not even eight years old yet.

Interviewer He wanted you to work at the El Auberge Nightclub?

No, on the contrary. There was an art festival at El Auberge for amateur performers who attended in hopes of being discovered by directors or filmmakers. Elias Mouadab kept his promise and I went with him to the amateur's festival held at El Auberge one March night in 1950. There were many bright lights and music. At the tables that were set up all around the theater sat three fourths of the stars of Egyptian cinema as well as many producers, directors and filmmakers including Asia, Mohamed Fawzy, Mahmoud Zou el Foukar, Aziza Amer, Madiha Yousry, Barakat, Gabriel Tal7me, Hassen Fawzy, Sabah, Taheya Carioca and others.

The Stick of Success

The thing that most attracted my attention in the theater was a long assaya with a hooked end. An amateur performer would get up on stage to either sing or dance or act and if the audience applauded they could continue, but if they did not applaud this meant he had flopped and the hooked assaya would immediately appear and remove him from the stage. The truth is that once I stepped on that stage and began to recite the monologue that Elias Mouadab had given me I heard the applause of everyone present and even the former King Farouk who was there that night gave me fifty pounds as a prize. I then had many film producers surrounding me all at the same time. Each one of them wanted me to put me under contract, but Elias Mouadad who was watching over me preferred to sign me on with Anwar Wagdy. Mr. Wagdy had given us an appointment for the next day at his office which was located at the Immobilia Building. So I went with my father. It was the first time I went to his office, and I rode the elevator. Anwar Wagdy would later tell everyone that he accidentally discovered me in the elevator.

Interviewer I asked the child who was all grown up now and had two children of her own, Ayman and Eman both of whom are married, and I said to her: "Did you learn to sing and dance from trained professional coaches, or was this all your own natural God given talent?"

I only remember that Anwar Wagdy brought me a dance trainer named Isaac Dickson who trained me for several weeks. After that he enrolled me in a private ballet academy so that I could learn ballet. He left me for many hours each day with his assistants Hassen El Saefi, Kamel el Telmesani and Mounir Mourad in order to train with them for every scene in the film. They were in a constant state of emergency with me, day and night. [Translator's note: Meaning that they were watching over her 24/7 and making sure that everything went smoothly for the film.]

One day I went with them to the shop called CLAIRE in Masr El Gedida. This store used to make clothes for the former Queen Nariman and it was also the store that would be making the costumes for the film. On that day Anwar Wagdy said to my father, "I'm sure that Fairouz will play this role very well because now she is used to me and she won't feel nervous or scared of standing in front of the camera for the first time." And this was what indeed happened, I played the role in this film quite easily.

Interviewer Do you remember the first time you stood in front of the camera?
Fairouz It was the scene where I wore the torn dress and I was the leader of the gang of delinquent children. Ten homeless kids who entered Zaki Rostum's house and it was after that when I discovered that he was my grandfather.
Interviewer It was Anwar Wagdy who gave you your artistic name, right?
Fairouz Yes, because the name is very close to my real name that appears on my birth certificate.
Interviewer And what is your real name?
Fairouz My complete name is Bairouz Arteen Kalevan. But what Anwar did was to change the letter B to an F.
Interviewer It has been said in the media that Anwar was not fair to you in the financial aspect in the sense that he made a lot of money with you, but you yourself didn't make much money at all. How much did you make on the three films that he produced with you, i.e., Yasmin, Dahab and Fairouz Hanem?
Fairouz At first, the agreement between Anwar Wagdy and my father was that I would get 1,000 pounds for every film I made. Also, Anwar was obligated to make two films with me in the first two years or else the contract would be null and void. It's incorrect to say that he forgot to give me my money. And in fact he was the only actor who was willing to invest money in this film in which the leading actress was a little girl. The movie could have completely flopped and he could have lost all his money. But the one thing that made me angry was that he didn't let me keep my costumes and I was so angry to the point that I took out every single hair pin that the hairdresser had put in my hair and I handed them to him, and when I did that he yelled at me and asked me "What are you doing?
Interviewer What's your story with musician Mohamed Abdul Wahab? Is it true that he refused to compose songs for you or to contribute to the production of the film Yasmin in any way? And then after the success of the film he regretted it?
Fairouz The next day after signing the contract Anwar took me to Mohamed Abdul Wahab's villa on Pyramid Street so that Mohamed Abdul Wahab could see me. He used to collaborate with Anwar in film productions. I didn't know or understand what happened between Anwar and Mohamed when they met that day but I found out about it later. When musician Mohamed Abdul Wahab took one look at me he said to Anwar Wagdy, "How can you risk your money in a film where the main actor is a kid who only knows how to recite monologues?" In those days the production of a film cost around fifteen thousand pounds. So after a lot of discussion between them, Mohamed Abdul Wahab refused to participate in the production of the movie and he told Anwar Wagdy, "Produce this film on your own because I don't like to take risks." I remember that Mohamed Abdul Wahab was angry after he saw the movie and he said to Anwar Wagdy, "You indeed had a very precious jewel in your hand that nobody else knew the value of except you yourself!"
Interviewer You imitated the two dancers Samia Gamal and Taheya Carioca and of course you saw them in person or in their films. But how did you imitate the dancer Badia Masabni even though you never met her in person and you never saw her on film either?
Fairouz The credit for that is due to dance instructor Isaac Dickson who for two weeks trained me and explained all her movements to me and explained how moving both legs must correspond with the rhythm.
Interviewer It was said that the insistence of your father in having your salary considerably increased made you lose many film opportunities. Is this correct?
Fairouz With all the love and respect that I have for my father, this is true. He the main person responsible that I didn't get far in cinema because he was not familiar with the technicalities of managing my business affairs.
Interviewer How did your life change after the success of the film Yasmin?
Fairouz It was an unforgivable mistake. I stopped my studies because my father did not want me to continue studying. At the time there was a lot of work for me. After I finished the film Yasmin I immediately began working on the film Fairouz Hanem produced by Anwar Wagdy and directed by 3abas Kamel. And after that I made the film Dahab which was directed by Anwar Wagdy in 1953.
Interviewer A personal question which I think you won't refuse to answer. Why did you retire from show business in 1959? Was it because you got married or was it because several of your films failed? I hope you don't take my words as an attack but we want to know the truth and to have it explained to the fans who love you.
Fairouz After making the film Bird of Paradise in 1955 I had turned thirteen and it was no longer possible to play the roles of little girls anymore. So I stopped working for three years. When I came back I was a sixteen-year-old young lady and I co-starred in four films — Ismael Yasseen Tarzan, My Happy Days, Ismael Yasseen For Sale, and I Think About Who Has Forgotten Me, which all failed. I felt that the public loved me when I was a little girl so I decided to withdraw and retire gradually.
Interviewer In the end, we have to say that if the talented child Fairouz, the little girl who was compared to the American miracle child Shirley Temple, was discovered by Elias Mouadab then it was Anwar Wagdy who made her shine and gave her the shining stardom and the fame which has not dimmed all these many years.

Fairouz laughs when she remembers the film El Herman (Deprivation) which was produced by her father because he didn't want her to work on films produced by others and she said, "Anwar Wagdy wanted to take revenge on my father because my father refused to sign a contract with him again, so Anwar sent some people to the theater where the film was playing in 1953 and they stood in front of the cinema and started saying things quite loudly, such as "What is this film? And what is the idiotic role that Fairouz is playing in it?" Anwar Wagdy wanted this to cause bad publicity for the film so that people would not go see it, but it actually had quite the opposite effect and the film turned out to be very successful.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This photo shows Fairouz in a scene from her movie Yasmin.




Marital Relationship

Fairouz met the actor Badr el Deen Gamgoum in the early 1960's and she lived a beautiful love story. They married and had two children Aymen and Eman. Her husband always encouraged her to return to show business again but she consistently refused.



Scenes from Movies Featuring Fairouz

  • Two dance scenes in the 1950 movie Yasmin.
  • There are two dance scenes in the 1951 movie Fairouz Hanem with Taheya Carioca.
  • In three different dance scenes, Fairouz belly dances in the style of Taheya Carioca, Samia Gamal, and Badia Masabni in the 1953 movie Dahab.The three dance segments start at 1:04:43 into the clip, with the first two being Taheya and Samia in that order. Then for Badia, Fairouz wears a gallabiya and plays finger cymbals.
  • Fairouz performs as an adult in a scene reminiscent of Hollywood musicals in the 1958 movie Lel Beia.



Additional Comments from the Translator

Click on the photo to the right to watch the video.

This scene appears in the 1950 film Yasmin starring a 7-year-old Fairouz in the title role. It also stars Anwar Wagdy and Made7a Yousry. This is not a dance clip; rather, it's a clip that showcases Fairouz's exceptional acting skills. Her performance is so amazing and tear-jerking in this scene that I had to share it. She was truly a little package of energy and extraordinary talent.

Fairouz was one of three very talented sisters who all performed in films as children. Her sister Nelly is well known throughout the Middle East for her Ramadan fawazeer. They are the cousins of actress Lebleba.

In this film, Yasmin (played by Fairouz) was abandoned at an orphanage at birth by her father. He was infuriated because he had wanted a son and his wife gave birth instead to a girl. His solution was to give her away. Yasmin lived at the orphanage and was renamed Katkouta. When her beloved teacher and caregiver died, she escaped from the orphanage and became a child street performer.

Yasmin was found by a struggling impoverished musician (played by Anwar Wagdy) who immediately saw the opportunity for success by teaming up with her. They began performing together. A strange coincidence leads them to Yasmin's maternal grandfather, who soon realizes that she is his granddaughter. However, she escapes again and they can't find her.

In this scene, Yasmin has finally located her maternal grandfather (played by Egyptian actor Zaki Rostum) and has walked into his room while he is sleeping. She talks to him and reprimands him for having allowed her to grow up on the streets with the cats and the dogs. However, she tells him that she loves him very much anyway.

When she gives him a kiss, his moustache tickles her, so she takes the scissors and begins to trim it. Later in the scene, her real mother walks in and realizes that this is the child that her ex-husband took from her, whom she never stopped thinking about. Yasmin also realizes that this is her mother.




About the Translator

Priscilla is a dancer of Lebanese heritage who enjoys researching the Golden Era of Egyptian dance. She owns a collection of more than one hundred classic black and white Egyptian films which is continually expanding.

Priscilla has also gathered a large library of dance related articles and clippings from Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers, many of which she has translated from the original Arabic to both English and Spanish.

Priscilla currently resides in Central America where she is a dance instructor. 




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