Forced out of Hollywood by the blacklist, noted noir director Jules Dassin (Brute Force , Rififi ) took a detour from his customary genre to make this entertaining comedy on a shoe-string budget. To his surprise, it became an international hit. The story, a twist on the legend of Pygmalion, concerns an academic type (Dassin) who journeys to Greece in hopes of understanding why it's lost the kind of cultural weight it had in the days of Plato and Aristotle. As his part in the battle against cultural illiteracy, he decides to tutor down-to-earth prostitute Melina Mercouri in her country's heritage. Despite the familiarity of its high-concept premise, this hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold comedy gets a great deal of mileage from the contrast between the owlishly earnest Dassin and his real-life spouse, the spirited, live-for-today courtesan. The film is Mercouri's show all the way, however, and in giving the best comic performance of her career, she demonstrates that the Greek people already know as much philosophy as they need to know.
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In this globally acclaimed comedy drama, eccentric, tough, and carefree Ilya (Melina Mercouri) is one of those characters who makes her mark on film history, and who made an internationally known star out of Mercouri. Ilya is a prostitute in the port of Piraeus with a definite sense of social and economic justice. The aptly named Homer (director Jules Dassin, later to marry his star) arrives in Greece, meets the irrepressible Ilya, and decides she needs more of the traditional Greek culture and less of those flamboyant emotions that are not really Greek, you see. So while he tries to play Henry Higgins, Ilya is willing to give up her usual self for two weeks. The question is, what will happen once the two weeks are over, assuming she can get through them?