Today, February 21, marks the death anniversary of Mahmoud Shokoko, one of the prolific actors of Egyptian cinema who had left a huge legacy in the entertainment industry.
Shokoko was the backbone of the film industry from the 1940s to the 1980s. He appeared in many super hit films, including (Anter and Lebleb), (Horseshoe), and (Mohamed Ali Street).
He was born on 1 May 1913 at El-Darb El-Ahmar, one of Cairo’s low-class districts, and died on 21 February 1985.
During his career, Shokoko left an indelible mark on Egyptian popular culture.
Although Shokoko was illiterate, he was able to have a huge impact on the world of acting, and will always be remembered for his puppet character of “Aragouzsho” who is still kept at the Music Institute and the Institute of Acting today.
Shokoko, personally, was talented in increasing interest in the puppet character “Aragouz,” which was diminishing as a popular art in low-classes quarters and the Egyptian countryside.
This simple artist transformed it into a popular puppet and mascot which children used to play with everywhere.
Further, he was the only actor whose candy statues were sold on streets for empty bottles, his picture printed on matchboxes and a tramway station in Alexandria city named after him.
In fact, his name was Mahmoud Shokoko Ibrahim Ismail Mousa, hence Shokoko was an original part of his real name and not a pseudonym.
Without a doubt, Shokoko was the perfect example of a star made by cinemagoers of the post-World War II period, where low-classes tastes were predominant since purchasing power was concentrated in their hands due to socio-economic changes brought by the war.
At that time , the ordinary audience was searching for a real representative of their class in films.
Indeed, filmmakers found their hero. Unlike many comedy actors preceding or following him, Shokoko didn’t need a genius like Naguib Al-Rihani or Badie’ Khairy in order to bring out his character. Cineastes wanted Shokoko to be his real self.
His successful cinematic debut was in two consecutive films: Hassan and Hassan and Mohamed Ali Street directed by Niazi Mostafa in 1944.
He also followed them with another six great movies in the subsequent year, which pointed to the rising demand on Shokoko and the beginning of comedy films’ golden age, especially ones targeting low-class quarters.
Have Patience, and Dark Skinned and Beautiful speak, in their titles, to the simple concerns of this class.
Furthermore, Shokoko remained loyal to the ordinary man and didn’t play anything else, whether as the star or a supporting actor.
He was well known for the low-class young man in My Beloved’s Window (1951, Abbas Kamel) or the protagonist’s loyal friend in Foreman Hassan (1952, Salah Abu-Seif). He didn’t shed this mould even in his successful comedic duets with Ismail Yassin, as for instance in Anbar and Feast Night.
It wasn’t long before Shokoko reached film stardom, beginning with The Return of the Concealment Cap (1946, Mohamed Abdel-Gawad).
Better known for his comedy roles, Shokoko, was one of the finest actors of Egyptin cinema.
He has given more than 100 films to the industry such as Shamshon and Lebeleb (1952, Seif-Eddine Shawkat). Badie’ Khairy, the scriptwriter, loaded the film with political implications which enhanced its significance due to the timing of the film’s release at the height of the Egyptians’ struggle against British occupation.
It clearly had a message: arrogance and force can be defeated by the use of the mind and wiles since right is on one’s side.
Shokoko filmmakers succeeded in presenting us with entertaining movies that sometimes carried deep meaning presented with simplicity.
Shokoko was able to maintain his popular appeal until the mid-1950s when Ismail Yassin was ascending the ladder of fame in his stead.
Egyptian cinemagoers changed and started to be attracted to family comedies by the end of the 1950s and early 1960s, at the hands of director Fateen Abdel-Wahab.
Unfortunately, Shokoko acted in very few films after this time. Between his role in The Thief and the Dogs (1963, Kamal El-Sheikh) until his death in 1985 (22 years) he acted in five films only, the last one being The Fun Gang (1976, Yehia El-Alamy).
Despite the fact that he played in more than one hundred films in his first 20 years of fame, cineastes turned their backs on his exceptional talent.
On the other hand, Shokoko didn’t appear except in two plays: The Visit has Ended and Midaq Alley.
Ultimately, Shokoko’s artistic intelligence was evident and until his last days he kept performing monologues on a wide scale, with the great composer Mohamed Abdel-Wahab setting music to one of them.