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
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
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
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.