Soraya Salem (1954) ثريا سالم

Egyptian bellydancer Soraya Salem performs in a scene from the 1954 Egyptian movie ‘Al Anisa Hanafi’ (Miss Hanafi الآنسه حنفى), Comedian Ismail Yassin who is the groom, plays the chauvinistic Hanafi who lives with his father (Abdel Fatah Al Kasri ), his stepmother (the wonderful Zeinat Sedki) and his cousin (Magda). His father forces him into a marriage of convenience with his cousin although she loves someone else. This scene takes place at their wedding. On the wedding night complaining of abdominal pain Hanafi’s admitted to hospital and mistakenly undergoes a sex change.
In this movie comedian Ismail Yassin uses cross dressing decades before Dustin Hoffman’s efforts in ‘Tootsie’.

Soraya Salem ثريا سالم (1950)

Soraya Salem is the dancer in this scene from the 1950 Egyptian film ‘Ma’lesh Ya Zahr’ (Never Mind Blossom معلش يازهر ). The film starred Karem Mahmoud and Shadia who perform some lovely musical numbers together. Also starring were Zaki Rostom, Wedad Hamdi and Siraj Munir.
The female producer of the film Assia Dagher is acknowledged as one of the pioneers of Egyptian cinema. She was born in Lebanon as Almaza Dagher, moving to Egypt in 1919 after the French occupation of her country. She started working as an actress but her acting career was shortlived due to her ‘over-the-top’ performances and strong Lebanese accent. She moved behind the camera to make her mark. Together with her niece Mary Quenny and Mary’s husband Ahmad Galal, Assia Dagher formed Lotus Films which became one of the largest film production and distribution companies at the time.
To quote the Doha Film Institute summary of Assia Dagher’s career, “There were no producers, distributions, script writers… not even actors. So to do a film, they used to gather friends and family and as Mary Quenny mentioned once to me, they also used to hang the negatives on the roof to dry.”
Trivia: This film is also known as Sorry Blossom or Don’t worry Blossom or Never Mind Blossom or Its Alright Zahr or Just my Luck or Hard Luck Dice….there have been so many! If I had a dollar for every possible transliteration and translation of this three word title I’d be a rich person 🙂