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Pre-Revolution Iran Actor Mourned

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Thousands of Iranians turned out Wednesday to mourn the death of ``the sultan of hearts,'' a popular movie actor who faded from the silver screen after Iran's 1979 revolution but lived on in memories and on bootleg videos. Related photo here Related feature here

Some 15,000 fans, among them Iranians too young to remember Mohammad Ali Fardin's glory days on the screen, crammed into the Belal mosque in northern Tehran and spilled out into nearby streets, bringing traffic to a halt.

Current and former movie stars, and ex-athletes who remembered the actor from his more athletic days as a world-class wrestler, were among the crowd of mourners.

Many fans took the opportunity to shake hands and take pictures of their favorite actors and actresses.

Fardin died of a heart attack Friday at 70. His death was not announced until Saturday, and on Sunday, at least 20,000 people took part in his funeral procession.

He began his acting career in 1960 at the age of 30, and he gained fame with his second movie, ``Human Beings.'' But his popularity peaked with ``Sultan of Hearts,'' a romantic film whose title song is still one of the most popular pre-revolutionary tunes. Thereafter, Fardin was known as the sultan of hearts.

``Iran has lost one of its greatest actors,'' said Faramarz Gharibian, himself one of Iran's most famous actors. ``Fardin was the teacher of almost all actors. His death is a big loss for Iranian cinema.''

The hard-line clergy that overthrew the U.S.-supported shah in 1979 launched a cultural revolution that sought to cleanse the country of all ``corrupt'' influences. Pre-revolutionary movies and songs were banned. Singers, actors and many other artists fled the country, many to the United States, where they still keep alive a pre-revolutionary culture that many still long for.

Some, like Fardin, stayed behind, but sunk into obscurity. Fardin opened a bakery and owned a movie theater. Iran's pre-revolutionary diva, Googoosh, still lives in Iran, but has not been heard from since the revolution.

Her songs, and Fardin's movies, remain alive on bootleg cassettes and videos.

Iran's strict cultural rules began to relax after the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who has brought a new breath of freedom into Iran. Last week, the government announced it was no longer illegal to own movies on video. But women are still not allowed to sing for a male audience, or have their voices recorded.

Women must be covered head to foot in public, even on the screen.

Many of those who turned up for Wednesday's ceremony were fans who were born after the revolution. Several teen-agers held up large portraits of Fardin from his younger days.

``I love him because he was a stalwart,'' said 16-year old high-school student Amir Asnaashari. ``I've seen most of his films on video.''

Others admired him for who he was off the screen.

``I loved him because he, unlike some other actors or actresses, did not leave his native land. He was an artist whose name and films will always remain alive,'' said Mohsen Tajvidi, who was Fardin's next-door neighbor.


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