Melina Mercouri, was a Greek actress, singer and politician.
She was born to a former cavalry officer and member of parliament, Stamatis Mercouris, and his wife Eirini Lappa. When she completed her secondary education, she attended the National Theatre's Drama School. She graduated in 1944. Her first husband was a wealthy landowner Panos Harokopos, and they stayed together until 1962 when they divorced.
As an actress she made her film debut in Stella and met international success with her performances in Never on Sunday, Phaedra, Topkapi, and Promise at Dawn. She won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, and she was also nominated for an Academy Award, a Tony Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and two BAFTA Awards.
A political activist during the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, she became a member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1977 and the first female Minister for Culture of Greece in 1981. Mercouri was the person who, in 1983, conceived and proposed the programme of the European Capital of Culture, which has been established by the European Union since 1985.