Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Remembering Mary Mounib on Her Birth Anniv.

Sun 11 Feb 2024 | 12:12 PM
Ahmed Emam

Today (Feb. 11) is the birth anniversary of Mary Mounib, the legendary Egyptian comedy actress who passed away on the same day in 1969. During her career spanning over 50 years, she starred in many notable films, such as "My Mother-in-law is an Angel" (1959) and "A Bitter Honeymoon" (1960), both directed by Essa Karama, and "People Downstairs" (1960), directed by Kamel Al-Telmesani.

Mounib was a trailblazer in the comedy field and the first woman to break the men's monopoly on stardom. Although some actresses before her played comedy roles, none of them achieved the success that Mary Mounib did. She was cast as the leading lady, just like male comedians, and plays were written for her.

Mary Selim Habib Nasr was born on February 11, 1905, in Al-Ghouta, near the Syrian capital Damascus. Mounib came to Egypt as a child with her mother and elder sister, following her father who came to speculate in the Egyptian Cotton Exchange. Unfortunately, her father passed away just as they arrived in Cairo, leaving them with an uncertain future.

Mary started working as an extra for the Ali Al-Kassar Theatrical Company around 1917, along with her elder sister, Alice. Later, they joined the Amin Attallah Company. She formed a theatrical company bearing her husband's name, Fawzi Mounib, through which she got to know a number of brilliant stage luminaries, including director and actor Bishara Wakim.

In 1934, Mounib joined the prominent Naguib Al-Rihani Company, named after Egypt's top comedian. She remained with it until her death. In this company, she worked with its founder Naguib Al-Rihani and playwright Badie Khairy, who helped shape her artistic character.

Mounib was known for playing the low-class sharp-tongued woman or the mother-in-law who liked to upset the happy lives of husbands and wives. Both characters were the base upon which Mary Mounib achieved her broad popularity.

Mounib's cinematic career started in 1934 when she played a small role in "Son of the People" (Eli Aptikman) through her old friend Bishara Wakim, who co-produced the film. She played other minor roles in "Al-Ghandoura" (1935) with the songstress Mounira El-Mahdiya, "His Highness Wants to Marry" (1936, Alexander Varkasz) with Naguib Al-Rihani, and "The Chant of Hope" (1937, Ahmed Badrkhan) with Umm Kulthum.

Despite only achieving moderate success in her early cinematic period, she achieved her breakthrough role in "Determination" (1939, Kamal Selim), where she played the mother who wants her daughter (Fatma Roushdy) to marry one of the alley's rich men against the daughter's will.