So many Lebanese have carried the flag through their various artistic endeavors...
(Copyright, Lebanese Imprints on the Twentieth Century, Volume I, Asma Freiha and Viviane Ghanem, 2006)
So many Lebanese have carried the flag through their various artistic endeavors. Some have achieved renown as great actors, others as directors. Yet others have excelled in painting dance, music, song and television.
American television, for instance, has gained from talent of Lebanese origin: Lucy Salhany was the first woman to head the Fox Broadcasting Company; she later moved to the United Paramount Network.
Assad Kelad is the producer of several serials including Family Ties and who’s the Boss and John Bowad directed episodes of the Cosby Show, Facts of Life and Soap. Michael Ansara played Cochise in the TV film Broken Arrow and everyone knows Jaimie Farr who played Corporal Klinger in M.A.S.H for eleven consecutive years.
So many other actors made their names in televised series: Michael Nouri, James Stacy, Vick Tayback and Kirsty McNichol. Tony Shalhoub and Amy Yasbeck appeared together in Wings and Khrystyne Haje was chosen by People magazine as one of the United States fifty most beautiful women.
Pierre Sabbagh was instrumental in the development of television and radio in France through his early involvement with ORTF.
Two famous names in American radio are Casey Kasem and Don Bustany who created the radio programs’ American Top 40 and American Country Countdown.
Jonathan Brandmeir is a talk show host and Mike Joseph, who pioneered consulting in radio programming, help major station such as ABC, CBS and NBC.
In the performing arts, Rosalind Elias, a mezzo-soprano, made her debut at the Meropolitan Opera in 1954 and became its prima donna, shining in some of the best roles. She was acclaimed at Salzburg in 1958 when she sang Erika in Samuel Barber’s Vanessa and at the Baalbeck Festival on 1959. There she gave a recital of arias from Gluck, Mozart, Massenet and Saint-Saens and from works by J. Miles, Rogers and Hammerstein, H.T. Burleigh, H.Forrest, Canteloube and Obradors. Frank Zappa was one of Rock n’Roll’s most enduring legends. On the West Coast of American, guitarist Dick Dale was nicknamed ‘King of the Surf Guitar’ and in 1987, at the age of 15, Tiffany Renee Darwish was the first teenager to have two hit singles.
Fagner is a singer and composer of popular Brazilian music - his parents were born in Lebanon while he was born in North Easter Brazil.
Father and son singers Louis Chédid and Mathieu Chédid (a.k.a. M) each have a wide fan base in France.
The New York Times named Elie Chaib Dancer of the Year in 1992 - by then he had been dancing with the Paul Taylor contemporary classical company for some twenty years. Born in July 1950 in Deir el Kamar, he studied in Beirut. At the age of seventeen he decided to learn classical dance with Annie Dabbat and very rapidly became the principal dancer in Annie Dabbat’s Beirut dance troupe. He left Lebanon in 1970, pretending to his parents that he was studying electrical engineering in New York. Instead, he studied ballet by day with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, and by night worked in a bakery. In 1972 he went to an audition for the Paul Taylor company and was selected to join them – he was then only 22. His dream: to dance at the Baalbeck Festival.
On Broadway, Fred Saidy created two musicals: Finnian’s Rainbow and Bloomer Girl. In France, Pierre Tabar was considered one of the greatest actors of the Comédie-Française.
In American cinema, Tom Shadyac is the director of several comedies including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar, Liar, both starring Jim Carrey, The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy and Patch Adams starring Robin Williams.
Fred Murray Abraham was selected Best Actor and won an Oscar for his performance as Salieri in Amadeus.
The now deceased composer Paul Jabara won an Oscar for his music for the theme song Last Dance in the movie Thank God It’s Friday.
Set designer Emile Kuri was nominated for eight Oscars, one of which was for the set of Mary Poppins, and won two Oscars for the movies The Heiress and Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the sea.
Marisa Tomei has also received Oscar nominations.
Director George S. Dibie received an Emmy Award and was made President of the International Photographers’ Guild.
The director Fouad Said, while filming the TV series I Spy, thought up the Cinemobile, the first personalized van that could be rented for photographic shoots - for this, he was recognized with the Technical Academy Award in 1970.
Elie Samaha from Zahleh is a great Hollywood producer, having successfully produced many films which include A Sound of Thunder, Out of Reach, Laws of Attraction, Spartan, The Whole Ten yards, The Foreigner, Alex & Emma, The In-Laws, Green Dragon, and is Chairman/CEO of Franchise Pictures, as is Sylvio Tabet who studied cinematography in France. He produced the French movie Cours Après Moi Que Je T’attrape starring Annie Girardot, which launched his career. He moved to Beverly Hills and in 1984 produced The Cotton Club with Francis Ford Coppola, Dead Ringers and the series The Beastmaster.
George Durgom, nicknamed Bullets, was agent to many stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie Gleason. Emilio Estefan is the producer and husband of Gloria Estefan.
In Mexico, Mauricio Yazbek Ferez from Saida is a very popular actor.
In France, Gabriel Boustani rapidly became a leading producer after leaving Lebanon in the1970s. Some of his major screen successes include: Sauve-toi Lola by Michel Drach, Mort en Direct by Bertrand Tavernier, Atlantic City by Louis Malle, Le Sang des Autres by Claude Chabrol, Croque la Vie and L’Homme de ma Vie by Jean Charles Tachela. He was also the talent spotter who brought unknowns Harvey Keitel, Susan Sarandon and Harry Dean Stanton to fame.
Maroun Baghdadi, scriptwriter, director and producer died accidentally in December 1993 at the age of 42 and with him ended the promise of such gems as Hors la Vie, which had received the Prix Special du Jury in Cannes in 1991. In Sweden, a young director showing plenty of promise on the international scene is Josef Farès, whose latest film Zoro has received wide critical acclaim and has recently premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
Slapstick actor Beshara Wakim had audiences in stitches; the stars of Egyptian cinema in the 1940s and 1950s were beautiful actresses such as Almaza Dagher alias Assia Dagher, her niece Mary Queeny and Badiha Massabni. Jeannette Feghali, alias Sabah, and Alexandra Bedrane, alias Noor el Hoda, both very famous singers and actresses.
In the field of fine arts, a few Lebanese painters of the early twentieth century were able to practice their art beyond our borders, most notably Daoud Corm (1852-1930) born in Ghosta, who left for Rome in 1870 to become a pupil of Roberto Bonpiane, the official court artist. In Rome, he painted an official portrait of pope Pius IX and then became the official court artist for King Leopold ll of Belgium. After returning home to Lebanon he was commissioned to paint the portraits of several Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian grandees, including the Knedive Abbas ll in 1894. His paintings were shown at the Universal Exhibitions of 1889 at Versailles and 1901 in Paris.
Khalil Saleeby (1870-1928) was born in Btalloun, Aley, Mount Lebanon and began drawing at a very early age. Having completed his studies at the Syrian Protestant College, he went to Edinburgh to continue his artistic training. While there he met John Sargent Singer who suggested he visit the United States. It was on a trip there that he met his future wife, Carrie, in Philadelphia. He returned shortly thereafter to Edinburgh and to London. His Venus won the gold Medal at the Edinburgh art show in 1889. He also exhibited in Paris at a show for independent artists and at the Durand Ruel gallery. He returned to settle in Lebanon in 1900 and continued to paint while teaching at the American University of Beirut. He later exhibited his works at the Paris show in 1922 where one of the portraits of his wife Carrie, entitled L’angélique won plaudits from the art critics. Khalil and Carrie Saleeby were murdered on the 7th of July 1928 in Beirut.
Philippe Mourani (1875-1973) was a pupil of Bretone in Rome and of Jean Paul Laurens in Paris. He had several illustrations published in French periodical, including L’IIIustration, and he designed the famous Phoenician hall for the Paris Fair of 1911.
Marie Hadad (1895-1973), author and artist, was born in Mekkine. She published a collection of tales entitled Les Heures Libanaises, showed her work in Paris in 1933 at the Georges Bernheim gallery and in that year sold her Montagnard Libanais to the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris. She exhibited again in Paris in 1937 at the Rotgé gallery. In the United States, in 1939 she participated in New York’s International Fair, in the international Exhibition in Cleveland and at the Harvard Museum. Jackie Kennedy Onassis owned one of her works. She was the sister of one of Lebanon’s greatest writers and thinkers, Michel Chiha and sister-in-law to the Lebanese Republic’s first president, Beshara el Khoury.
Saleeba Doueihy (1915-1993) was born in Ehden, North Lebanon. His initiation to art took place in Habib Srour’s studio and a scholarship from the Lebanese government enabled him to continue his art studies at the School of Decorative Arts in Paris between 1932 and 1936. While in France, he participated in the Salon des Artistes Français in 1934 and in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. He settled in the United States for 25 years in 1950, where he exhibited at New York’s International Fair and in shows at the Guggenheim Museum and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His individual shows were held at the Contemporary Gallery of New York, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Art and Science Centre of New Hampshire. He received the National Order of the Cedar in 1956, a prize from the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in 1968 and the gold Medal from two Italian academies, Delle Arte and Del Lavoro, in 1980.
Shafic Abboud (1926 – 2004) was born in Bickfya and began studying engineering before enrolling at the Lebanese Academy for Fine Arts (ALBA) in 1947. He continued his art studies at studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with famous artists such as Fernand Léger and André Lhote. He was an abstract painter, a colourist, who used matter, and his non-figurative approach brought synthesis between visible reality and inner experience. He won the Victor Choquet prize in 1960 and was recognized by French critics as being a member of the Paris School. He has been described as being “one of the few Arab artists to have achieved international recognition. Since he participated in the first Paris Biennale in 1959, his work has become integrated in a context that shows the continuity and modernization of the Paris School.’’ He participated in several collective and individual exhibitions in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. The French state has bought a lithograph entitled Beaux Souhaits and the Museum of Modern Art in Paris bought an oil painting entitled Préparation. He received the Sursock Museum prize in Beirut in 1964.
1950, at the Stade de Chayla, Beirut
1957, at Lisson, Italy
1964, at the Rota Lehor Gallery, Frankfurt
1973, at the Arc Galery, Boukstel, the Netherlands
1975, at the Galerie M.L. du Port, Amsterdam
1979, Ceramics, at the Galerie Brigitte Schéhadé, Paris
1981, at the Galerie Brigitte Schéhadé, Paris
1982, at the Galerie Broutieh, Toulouse, France
1986, at the Galerie Farès, Paris
1989, at the Galerie Prestagaron, Denmark
1997, Les robes de Simone, at the Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris
1998, Recent Works, at the Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris
1999, at the Galerie Jeanine Rebeiz, Beirut
2000, Recent Works, at the Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris
2002, Recent Works, at the Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris
2003, Small Works, at the Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris
2004, Homage to Shafic Abboud, at the Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris
Assadour (Bezdikian) was born in Beirut in 1943 and studied at the Pietro Vanucci Academy in Perugia and then at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris, the Coutard studio, between 1964 and 1970. From 1974 to 1977, he was a member of the committee for the Salon de Mai and between 1975 and 1979 was a member of the committee of the Jeune Gravure Contemporaine. He has been a member of the association of French artists and engravers since 1975.
Since 1968 he has exhibited his work throughout the world: at the La Pochade gallery in Paris in 1971; at the L’Arco gallery in Rome in 1974; at the Vivant gallery in Tokyo in 1980; at the Sagot-Le-Garrec gallery in Paris in 1983; at the Museum Bochum in Germany for a retrospective in 1991; at the Keum San Gallery in Seoul in 1995 and at the Kaze Gallery in Osaka in Japan. He has participated in 70 fairs and exhibitions and has illustrated books and various other publications such as L’Affaire Lemoine à Paris 1968-1969, Ombre Luxembourg, L’Oiseleuse-Paris. His work has been bought by a variety of institutions: the National Library in Paris in 1981 , the French national contemporary art fund in 1983, the French regional contemporary art fund (FRAC) in Lower Normandy in 1984, the Gulbenkian Foundation in 1985,and the Samsung Collection in Seoul in South Koera in 1996. Initially an engraver, he also paints with watercolours and oils, creating a near surreal world in imagined contexts. He now lives in Paris.
Nadim Karam, now settled in Beirut, was born in 1957 in Senegal. He studied architecture at the American University of Beirut before continuing his studies at Tokyo University from where he obtained a Masters and a Doctorate degree in Architecture. He has exhibited installations made of Plexiglas and steel in Japan, Denmark, Germany and the United States. His 101 Archaic Procession elements traveled the world in his wake, including to Beirut.
An American artist of Lebanese origin whose works hang in New York or Californian homes, John Kacere (1920-1999) painted abstract works between 1950 and 1963 before turning to photo-realism and hyperrealism. Fascinated by the female form, he painted giant canvases that were savagely criticized by feminists but which he viewed as homage to women whom he thought were ‘the source of life and regeneration.’ He taught at several art schools including the Rhode Island School of Design, New York University, University of New Mexico and Cooper Union and Parson’s School of Design in New York. He had several shows in Paris and Hamburg were his work was enthusiastically received.