Today marks the 132nd birth anniversary of the most acclaimed comedian in his generation Naguib El-Rihani.
His comic timing and acting are known and appreciated by the audience and the charismatic actor-comedian has induced fits of laughter among many Egyptian generations and many more to come.
The late star became a comedy icon through his performance in Emad Eldin theaters and Egypt’s cinema, with a career spanning more than five decades.
El-Rihani also has been the definition and benchmark of comedy for a long time now. His seminal works have made the world of theater and cinema laugh, cry and feel for years and still continues to leave its charm.
El-Rihani is one of the region’s most renowned actors. His career started after he graduated from the French school “Les Frères” in Cairo in the 1900s.
The remarkable comedian enjoyed a successful acting career after starring in his first film, Yacout, in 1934, aged 45.
He also played major roles in a number of famous movies, such as ‘Yacout’ in 1934, ‘Beslamto Ayez Yetgwz’ (“He wants to get married”) in 1936, “Abou Halmoos” in 1941 “El Rial” (1917), “El Ashra El Tayba” (“Good Companionship”) (1920) that featured music by Sayed Darwish, “El Geneih El Masry” (“Egyptian Pound”), “El Dunia Lama Tedhak” (“When Luck Smiles”), “Si Omar” and Everything Is Fine.
Also known for establishing his own theatrical group in 1910 and for his comedic works, Rihani died at age 60 while filming his last movie, “Ghazal Al Banat.”
Throughout his long-standing career, the iconic star was honored by many political and social leaders including Talaat Harb, Saad Zaghlol, Hoda Sha’arawi, and Tawfik Nassim. He also influenced the ‘Father of Comedy,’ Fouad El-Mohandes.
Born in 1889, Rihani was led by his feelings and always believed an original actor should dwell in creativity and respect his/her own art.
According to Rihani’s diaries, he was one of the rare actors who refused to drink alcohol during a time when celebrities often relied on alcohol to help calm their nerves and perform on stage.
“I don’t feel obliged to write this diary, rather I feel responsible for recording the history of Egyptian art. It will further make me at ease when I spread the truth,” Rihani wrote in his diary.
He was appalled by the statements of some actors and actresses who were enrolled in his group denying his teaching of theatrical arts.
Veteran Rihani, who died of Typhoid in June, aged 60, was so fond of theater that he fell into debt and spent everything he had for good, quality theater. He had such passion for his art that he agreed with all theaters to charge him for the audiences’ tickets.
His seminal drama works were often inspired by events in his real life including his mother’s shame of his acting career and the brother he lost, George El-Rihani. Rihani was forced to leave drama due to his rising debts and fans who preferred comedy.
Ultimately, he used to integrate patriotism with humor on stage and scorned the British invasion, ongoing at the time. Rihani used the stage to spread awareness to audiences about the demeaning living conditions of Egypt at the time.