Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1208, (7 - 13 August 2014)
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1208, (7 - 13 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

My name is happy

Obituary: Said Saleh (1938-2014). 

Al-Ahram Weekly

That he should be called Said (meaning “Happy”) is strangely appropriate. For decades on end the comic legend gave the happiness of laughter to millions of Egyptians and Arabs, performing in some of the most iconic stage comedies in Egyptian history, and his lines from such plays as Madraset El-Moshaghbin (School of Rascals, written by Ali Salem, directed by Hossameddin Mustafa and first performed in 1973) and El-Eyal Kebret (The Children Have Grown Up, written by Samir Khafagi and Bahgat Amar, directed by Samir Al-Asfouri and first performed in 1979) make up a sizable proportion of the day-to-day cultural references of generations of Egyptians.

Saleh died of heart failure at the age of 76 last Friday, leaving an immense legacy of films and plays.

He was born in the Delta province of Menoufiya but graduated from the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University in 1960. He earned as little as LE12 for early roles, eventually making his name in director Abdallah Al-Sheikh’s 1969 play Hello Shalabi, acting alongside the late Abdel-Moneim Madbouli as well as Madiha Kamel. It wasn’t until his role as Morsi Al-Zanati, the unintelligent but hearty rich man’s son in Madraset El-Moshaghbin that, acting opposite the comedy superstar Adel Imam as well as Hassan Mustafa, Soheir Al-Babli, the late Ahmad Zaki and the late Younis Shalabi that the full extent of his talent became apparent — and he consolidated his reputation further with the same team minus Imam in El-Eyal Kebret. His films (many of them with Imam) include Salam Ya Sahbi (Goodbye My Friend, 1986, written by Salah Fouad and directed by Nader Galal), Al-Rousasa La Tazal Fi Gaibi (The Bullet Is Still In My Pocket, 1974), Ragab Fawqa Safih Sakhin (Ragab on A Hot Tin Roof, 1978) and Al-Azwag Al-Shayateen (Divil Husbands, 1977).

By the 1980s, unlike Imam, Saleh’s moon was waning. He appeared less and less, becoming embroiled in personal problems and serving brief prison terms (reportedly for voicing criticism of the regime). Starting in the late 1990s he appeared in a number of Imam films: Bekhit Wa Adila II (1997), Al-Wad Mahrous Beta’ Al-Wazir (Mahrous, the Minister’s Boy, 1999), Amir Al-Zalam (Prince of Darkness, 2002) and finally Alzheimer (2010), directed by Amr Arafa. He also played supporting roles in films starring younger comedians like Mohamed Heneidi’s Belia wi Demagho Al-Alya (High Beliya, 2000) and Hani Ramzi’s Gawaz bi Qarar Gomhouri (A Marriage by Presidential Decree, 2002).

In 2005 Saleh had open-heart surgery and his health began to deteriorate, but he continued playing supporting roles in, among other films, Mohema Saaba (Mission Impossible, 2006), Bel Alwan Al-Tabi’ya (True Colours, 2009) and Met’eb Wa Shadia (2012).

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