Written by Agâh Özgüç

From theater players – actresses of early years to Yeşilçam celebrities, from the changing image of silver screen after 1980s to today’s stars, dynamic face of Turkish cinema.

None of the female actresses mentioned in this article resembles one another. They are not each others’ copies with regard to typology or stand in cinema. But where are they now? Famous brunettes and blondes of 1950s who influenced masses, Pola Morelli, Gönül Bayhan, Melahat İçli and others not well-known today. Or Heyecan Başaran, Mualla Kaynak, Ayla Karaca, Mesiha Yelda… Does anybody remember advertisement star of a period Ayten Çankaya, Peri Han “the squirrel” or Cavidan Dora?

Ajda Pekkan we have seen in around 50 films or “Millennial Woman” so to speak. She is still standing just to spite all and now in a different field. Çolpan İlhan, Sema Özcan, Selda Alkor and other magical women of Turkish cinema. But how did the “star” notion develop in Turkish cinema and how has female actress typology changed? In the period from 1923 to 1948 first female actresses made their debuts in Turkish cinema, and there are not complete star actresses to speak of except for Cahide Sonku. In this “transition” period when theater dominated Turkish cinema, there were certain actresses famous for building typologies and characters. Although some names shined out, they remained within Turkish borders. However among female actresses entering Turkish cinema between years 1949 1961, Sezer Sezin, Neriman Köksal, Muhterem Nur, Fatma Girik, Leyla Sayar and Türkan Şoray should be kept separate, particularly for acting in director films. Because these are the prime years in Turkish cinema history for producing stars. A few years later, Nilüfer Aydan in 1961, Filiz Akın in 1962 and Hülya Koçyiğit in 1963 made their appearances in Turkish cinema. The period between 1950 – 1965 contributed greatly in giving a direction to Turkish cinema and building a Yeşilçam mythology for domestic cinema audience.

Fashion takes shape in accordance with political and social conditions a country is in, and each genre produces its stars. This applies to popular magazines that organized actor competitions in the period from early 1950s to late 1960s. Those were the golden years for magazines that held actor competitions. In this period virtually marked by the competitions, Belgin Doruk and Sibel Göksel was introduced to Yeşilçam by ‘Yıldız’ magazine, Leyla Sayar by ‘Yeni Yıldız’ magazine, Semra Sar by ‘Sinema’ magazine, Filiz Akın and Figen Say by ‘Artist’ magazine, Mine Kutlu by ‘Perde’ magazine, and Zeynep Aksu by ‘Pazar’ magazine. ‘Ses’ magazine issued for 20 years, is a medium that discovered most actresses. Chronologically Gülgün Ok, Ajda Pekkan, Hülya Koçyiğit, Selda Alkor, Sezer Güvenirgil, Hülya Darcan, Nil Kutval, Müjgân Agralı, Alev Uğur, Fatma Belgen, Necla Nazır and Gülşen Bubikoğlu appeared in cinema thanks to competitions organized by ‘Ses’. In addition to weekly magazines, daily ‘Saklanbaç’ newspaper introduced Hale Soygazi in 1972 and Meral Orhonsoy in 1973 to Turkish cinema, with competitions it held with the title “cinema beauty”. Another exceptional star with a theater background is Sema Özcan.

A new genre emerged in Turkish cinema after 1974. At first these were cheap comedies produced for box-office returns. These transitory films failed to produce new female stars. Director Metin Erksan who won Golden Bear Award in 1964 Berlin Film Festival with his film ‘Dry Summer’, considered the first significant achievement of Turkish cinema, describes the female stars of the period as follows: “Black eyes made up of either camel skin döor paper.” However both these black eyes and cheap comedies were immediately forgotten. Later arabesque movies with singers as lead actors began to rise while Türkan Şoray, Hülya Koçyiğit and Fatma Girik, three superstars of the period started to descend… Şoray, featured in an average of 10 films yearly before 1974, appeared only in three productions during cheap comedies period that lasted for six years. But what happened after 1980s? Actually a lot… First, the economical relations of producers, who made movies with cash advances from Anatolia regional establishments for years began to deteriorate. Then, summer garden cinemas for families all across Turkey started to close down one by one. A new production system replaced the old ways of cinema. In this period of change, star actor was replaced by coupling of right screenplay and good actor. A period began in Turkish cinema where actresses in their mature years were spoken of for their acting.

Among 1980s stars, Serpil Çakmaklı who was featured in highest number of films broke a record in a sense by appearing in a total of 41 movies. Çakmaklı who initially appeared in Yeşilçam films, later performed more in arabesque films and finally sailed for authentic subjects. ‘Tomruk’ (Log) Çakmaklı appeared in alongside Kadir İnanır in 1982, Kan (Blood) directed by Şerif Gören in 1985, adaptation from the novel of Fakir Baykurt ‘Yılanların Öcü’ (Revenge of Snakes) are consistent films in this respect. After Sinan Çetin’s film ‘Princess’, Çakmaklı was ambitious to make more and more movies and her decline began. Today… Following phases, changes, declines and decadence, will the new state of cinema produce new stars? What have we said? As long as genres, trends prevail, new stars will emerge in respective genres in line with the nature of this construct. Media organs of our age will inevitably produce own stars.

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Agâh Özgüç

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