Soad Hosni

Soad Hosni (Egyptian Arabic:سعاد حسني January 26, 1943 – June 21, 2001) was an Arabic  actress and singer born in the Bulaq district of Cairo.

Soad Hosni at the age of 36 years (1979)

Soad Hosni at the age of 36 years (1979)

Soad Hosni. was known as the “Cinderella of Egyptian cinema“. She was one of the most influential actresses in the Middle East. She starred in 83 films between 1959 and 1991; about seventy of her films were shot in the 1960s and 1970s.

Arabic Soad Hosni birth certificate indicating her birth date 26 January 1943

Arabic Soad Hosni birth certificate indicating her birth date 26 January 1943

Early life

Soad Muhammad Kamal Hosni was born in 1943 in Ataba, Cairo, one of three sisters (Kawther, Soad, Sabah) born to Mohammad Hosni and his second wife, Jawahara Mohammad Hassan. Soad also had eight half-siblings from her father first marriage (four boys: Ezz Eddin, Nabil, Farooq and Sami, and four girls: Khadija, Samira, Najat herself, Afaf). Her parents divorced and her mother remarried, to Abdul Monem Hafedh, with whom she had six more children (three boys: Jaheer, Jaser, Jalaa and three girls: Jehan, Janjah, Jeely), thus giving Soad and her two sisters 14 half-siblings (8 from her father side and 6 from her mother side). Soad therefore is the 10th in-line of a grand total of 17 brothers and sisters

As a young teenager, after her parents’ divorce, Soad lived briefly with her half-sister Najat Al Saghira (born 1938) then with her half-brother Ezz Eddin Hosni (1927 – 2013). Thereafter, at the age of 15 she was living with her mother in a Cairo neighbourhood called Shobra; by then divorced from her father, and her stepfather

Soad Hosni at the age of 10 years (in 1953)

Soad Hosni at the age of 10 years (in 1953)

Thereafter, at the age of 15 she was living with her mother in a Cairo neighbourhood called Shobra, by then divorced from her father, and her stepfather.

Home of Artists

Soad Hosni. was born into an artistic family. Her father was a calligrapher, was Syrian of Kurdish descent. The household of her father was known as “the home of the Artists”. His son Ezz Eddin, a music composer, taught his sister Najat music and singing. His other son Sami Hosni is a Cello player, jewellery designer and also calligrapher .

Both Soad Hosni. and Najat Al Saghira, one of Hosni’s half-siblings, became super-stars in the Arab World in the arts of acting and singing. Najat Al Saghira, was a child-star who started singing at the age of 5 years in the early 1940s and continued to be a great success. Soad also began her career at the age of three years in 1946 within a children Radio program and thus she was also child-star. This Radio program, called The Children’s Corner, was broadcasted by the famous Mohamed Mahmoud Shaaban, known as Baba Sharoo, and in it she sang her famous song “I am Soad, sister to the moon, my beauty recognised by all” before reaching the age of 7 years! . Soad did not continue and starred her first film later at the age of 15 years .

Career

In 1950s, Soad step father treated Soad well, but at the time, he was conservative and refused to send her to school.

In 1957, family friend Abdel-Rahman Al-Khamisi wanted Soad, at the age 15 years, to play Ophelia in a production of “Hamlet” he was directing. It was difficult for her, she wasn’t able to recite Shakespeare well, and she would weep in frustration . But Al Khamisi sensed her acting talents and asked Ibrahim Saafan, an Arabic teacher and comedy actor , to teach her reading and writing and Anaam Salousa to give her oral acting performance lessons.

Thereafter, Mr Al-Khamisi persuaded film director Henry Barakat (1914– 1997) to test Soad for the star role of her first film “Hassan and Na’ima”. This film was based on a folk story the script of which was being written by Al-Khamisi himself. The test was successful, the film was released in 1959 and within 2 years she had starred in ten more films!

Soad Hosni in her first film (in 1959)

Soad Hosni in her first film (in 1959)

In 1972, Soad’s film “Watch out for Zouzou” was released to become the biggest box- office hit in Egyptian cinema to date! This film was the longest running film in Egyptian cinemas, showing for over a year. Many and some would argue most, Egyptians know the film’s songs by heart. Soad Hosni, until her last days in London, called herself “Zouzou” .

1972 Film poster for Soad Hosni big-hit film

1972 Film poster for Soad Hosni big-hit film “Take care of Zouzou”

Soad starred in 83 films; a staggering number, over a period of three decades all of which were successful at the box-office with the exception of one film titled “Third Class” in 1988 .

In 1991, Soad made her last film “The Shepherd and the Women” (in Arabic: Al Ra’i We El Nissa) which was directed by her ex-husband Ali Badrkhan and thus retired from filming at the age of 49 years.

Poster of Soad Hosni last film (in 1991)

Poster of Soad Hosni last film (in 1991)

Soad Hosni is one of the most popular actresses in the history of Egyptian cinema. Film director Mohammad Khan wrote in Al Aham newspaper “She’s a better actress than Marilyn Monroe, I think “.

Films

Soad Hosni starred 83 films, the following short list is among the most famous of her works,

  • 1960 Girls and Summer (story Ihsan Abdel-Quddous; co-star Abdel-Halim Hafiz).
  • 1966 Cairo 1930 (Naguib Mahfouz’s novel, co-star Ahmed Mazhar).
  • 1966 Too Young for Love (co- star Rushdi Abaza).
  • 1967 Marriage Modern Style (co- star Hassan Youssef).
  • 1967 The Second Wife (co- star Shukri Sarhan) .
  • 1969 Some suffering (co- stars Yehia Shahin and Hassan Youssef).
  • 1970 Lost Love (story Taha Hussein; co-stars Rushdi Abaza and Zebida Tharwat).
  • 1971 The Choice (co-star Ezzat El-Alayli).
  • 1972 Watch out for Zouzou (co-star Hussein Fahmi).
  • 1974 Where’s My Mind? (Story Ihsan Abdel-Quddous; co-star Rushdi Abaza).
  • 1975 Al-Karnack (Naguib Mahfouz’s novel; co-star Nour El-Sherif).
  • 1981 A Dinner Date (co- star Ahmed Zaki).
  • 1983 Love in the Prison Cell (co- star Adel Imam).
  • 1986 The Hunger (Naguib Mahfouz’s novel; co- star Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz).

Awards

Soad was honoured and given prizes many times ;

  • 1968 Ministry of Culture Special Prize for her role in her 1967 film “The Second Wife”.
  • 1971 Best Actress, First National Conference for the 1970 film “Sunset and Sunrise”.
  • 1975 Best Actress, Film Society, for the 1974 film “Where’s My Mind?”.
  • 1977 Film Society Second Conference for the 1975 film “Al-Karnack”.
  • 1979 President Sadat awarded her Recognition Certificate for her distinguished role in the Arts.
President Sadat honouring Soad Hosni in 1970s

President Sadat honouring Soad Hosni in 1970s

Character and Popularity

On Soad’s real-life character, her eldest half-brother Ezzidin Hosni described her as “truthful, clear, frank and loves wellbeing to all others especially those who are close to her” and that “her wealth was for others and not for herself” in reference to her generosity . Egyptian actress Lubna Abdel Aziz (born 1935) wrote in Al Ahram newspaper “It was more than her films that entranced and enraptured. Her beauty, as striking as it was dazzling, still had a soothing and personal quality, neither haughty nor forbidding. It exuded a sense of familiarity and accessibility ….Though illiterate until her twenties; she walked with princes and sat with kings. Her special magic that charmed intellectuals, philosophers, writers, was the very same magic that charmed the labourer, the farmer, the hired hand. She was everyone’s star.“

Soad’s amazing popularity with millions of people across the Arab World has been and still is wide, varied and also covered the un-expected: here is a recent (in 2013; a dozen years after her passing-away) news-line in an Arabic Weddings website: “An Iraqi woman asked her husband to divorce her after he insisted on naming his new-born daughter Soad, after famous Egyptian actress Soad Hosni. The wife was shocked that her husband collected pictures of the late actress, and was really jealous. Their families tried to convince her and change her mind, but there was no use”!

Soad Hosni was known for her glowing smile and irrepressible joie de vivre.

Marriages

Soad was married five times to,

  1. Singer Abdel-Halim Hafiz ( for 6 years, in early 1960s).
  2. Cinematographer Salah Kurayem (for about 1 year, around 1968).
  3. Film Director Ali Badrkhan (for 11 years from 1970 to 1981).
  4. Film Director Zaki Fateen Abdul Wahab (for few months, in 1981).
  5. Screenwriter Maher Awad (for 14 years, from 1987 till her death in 2001).

Her first marriage (to Abdel –Halim Hafiz) was at first rumoured, but music composure Kamadl Al-Taweel and writer Mohammad Fawzi confirmed it, so did her half-sister Janja  and her London dentist in TV interviews (available on YouTube). Also, Egyptian Al Ahram-online reported (in 2001) that in 1993 Soad gave an interview published in “Sabbah El-Kheir” magazine in which she said she had been secretly married to Halim for six years. Halim, at the time was 15 years older than her. He died in 1977 at the age of 48.

Soad Hosni and Abdul Halim Hafez (Photo date is unknown)

Soad Hosni and Abdul Halim Hafez (Photo date is unknown)

On Soad’s fourth marriage, Safynaz Kazem wrote in Al Ahram newspaper “Never had she appeared happier than during her relationship with Badrkhan. She enjoyed a simple lifestyle, far from the hullabaloo that usually surrounds movie stars and celebrities. She seemed to be in her element, quiet and composed amid the writers, poets and militant students that formed Badrkhan’s social circle“.

Soad Hosni with her husband (in 1972)

Soad Hosni with her husband (in 1972)

Soad had no children; she was reported as saying “How could I have children when I am myself a child,” in one of the rare interviews she gave in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, she wanted to be a mother as she had miscarriages when she was married to Ali Badrkhan. The Saudi Gazette reported that Soad’s sister, Janja, explained Soad got pregnant twice from her husband Ali Badrkhan but miscarried because of working herself too hard. She (Janja) said: “My sister loved children very much and wished to have her own child; her hobby was to buy children’s clothes and give them out as gifts.”.

Death

In 2001, it was reported Soad Hosni died after throwing herself from balcony at Stuart Tower in London on June 21, 2001.

Stuart Tower in London

Stuart Tower in London

This proposition was not readily accepted by some members of her family, Soad’s close associates and several media outlets (several interviews and chat shows on this subject are available on YouTube); briefly

Soad Hosni came to London in 1997 to undergo treatment for back problems.

Her last days in London were filled with loneliness and sorrow as she battled her disease in exile. She expressed faith, however, that she would get better and resume her acting career, which is one of the reasons why many do not believe she committed suicide. On 21 June 2001, she fell from the window of her friend London apartment. Her death remains shrouded in mystery and investigations were still on-going. In 2011, Al Aram newspaper, reported that according to some accounts, eyewitnesses claim that falling out of the window was not the cause of her death and neighbours heard shouting before the incident.

In 2012, a formal legal complaint was lodged by Soad’s half-sister, Janja, who alleged that top Egyptian government officials had been behind Soad’s death. A year later, on 24 March 2013, the Judge announced the suspension of investigations into the 2001 death of Soad Hosni. He ruled that there was insufficient evidence to implicate former regime figures.

Soad Hosni 2001 funeral in Cairo attended by thousands of mourners

Soad Hosni 2001 funeral in Cairo attended by thousands of mourners

Her funeral in Cairo was attended by some 10,000 people. Soad had no children and left as her widower, her last husband, writer Maher Awad, whom she married in 1987.

A Taha,

London, UK

23 August 2015

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