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On Layla Mourad’s Birthday… Important milestones in the artistic career of the “Singing Guitar”

A life full of important stations lived by the late artist Laila Murad, who is considered one of the icons of singing and acting in the Arab world. She was distinguished by exceptional talent and was one of the few singers who achieved as much success in acting as she achieved in singing. She was even nicknamed the “singing guitar”. On her birthday, which falls on February 17, we review with you the artistic career of the artist, Laila Mourad, starting with her great fame that qualified her to become the highest paid in the history of Egyptian and Arab cinema. Through her conversion to Islam and being accused of spying for Israel, and ending with her early retirement from art and her keeping away from the spotlight.

Her birth and Early Life

Her real name is Lilian Ibrahim Zaki Murad Mordechai. She was born on February 17, 1918, in Alexandria, to an Egyptian father of Polish descent, and an Egyptian mother of Moroccan descent. She learned to sing at the hands of her father, the composer Zaki Murad, and his friend, the composer Daoud Hosni, at the age of fourteen. She graduated from the Notre Dame  Des Apôtres School for girls in Helmeyet El-Zeitoun neighborhood. Her younger brother is the artist, Mounir Murad.

Early Works

The artistic start came to the artist, Laila Mourad, as a singer in concerts. When the official radio station was opened in Egypt, the radio contracted with her to sing it once a week. “Oh deer with black rimmed eyes” was the first carol she sang in July 6, of 1934. After that, she released several CDs. As for her artistic beginnings in the cinema, she was in 1935 when she participated in the movie “Victims” with her voice only, and presented the song “The Day of Travel”. The musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab admired her, so he chose her to participate in the movie “Long Live Love” in 1937. Through it, she attracted the attention of the dean of the Arab theater, Youssef Wehbe, to choose her to share her second movie, “On a Rainy Night” in 1939.

Her film career

Over the course of her career, Laila Murad presented more than 1,000 songs, in which she collaborated with great poets and composers, including the musician of generations, Abdel Wahab, Zakaria Ahmed, Muhammad al-Qasabji, Riad al-Sunbati, her brother Munir Murad and others. Among her most famous songs are: “Why did you make me love you, my heart is my guide, the love of love, Abjad Hawz, I laugh Karkar, I love two people together, my eyes are luxurious, sing to me a little, make up my mind, horses, who can control my heart, the world is singing, dearer than my eyes, O thief with eyelashes, Preoccupied and busy, my heart is empty, O beloved of the soul, he is the pampered, means quarrel, ask for me. We cannot forget her beautiful patriotism songs, including: “Build and elevate, my land, my sweet, you are going to the Sinai desert, you are the children of our country, we will come to you, our country.” In addition to her religious songs, including: “O you who go to the dear Prophet, the door of forgiveness.”

As for its share of films, it reached only 27 films, among which we mention: Martyrs of love, the unknown past, the stroke of fate, Solomon’s ring, passion and youth, the madman, the return of love, from the heart to the heart, the lady of the train. She formed a successful duet with many artists, the most famous of which is with the artist Anwar Wagdy, with whom she presented 11 films, the most important of which are: “Laila, the daughter of the countryside, Layla in the dark, Layla, the daughter of the poor, Layla the daughter of the rich, my heart is my guide, the girls’ flirtation, the lover of the soul, the daughter of the noble, Amber.” She presented 7 films with the artist Youssef Wehbe, including: “On a rainy night, Laila the girl of schools, Laila the daughter of the countryside, the stroke of fate, Shadia Al-Wadi.” She also participated with the artist Hussein Sedky in 5 films, including: “Laila, the shore of love, Adam and Eve, the unknown lover.”

Retiring art

Laila Murad announced her retirement from art completely in the mid-fifties and she is at the peak of her artistic glory. Her last artwork was the movie “The Unknown Beloved” in 1955 with Hussein Sidqi, Kamal El-Shennawy and Siraj Mounir. She did not retract her decision to retire until her death, despite all attempts to dissuade her from this decision.

List of the 100 best films in the history of Egyptian cinema

One of Laila Murad’s films was selected in the list of the 100 best films in the history of Egyptian cinema, which is the movie “Ghazl Al Banat” produced in 1949, starring Naguib El-Rihani, Youssef Wehbe, Anwar Wagdy, Suleiman Naguib, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Farid Shawky and Mahmoud El Meligy. Written and directed by Wagdy. It ranks number 9 on the list.

Converting to Islam

Laila Murad was born into a Jewish family, and in 1946, specifically in the month of Ramadan, Laila Murad converted to Islam in the Sheikhdom of Al-Azhar. The story of her conversion to Islam dates back to the time of her marriage to the artist Anwar Wagdy, where she used to wake up every day at the time of the dawn prayer, and this matter continued with her for a long time. One night she woke her husband, saying: “Hear the call to prayer, it is sweet, this time, isn’t it? Wow the muezzin while he says prayer is better than sleep,” and she told him that she wanted to enter Islam. Anwar Wagdy thought at first that her talk was just a joke, but she assured him of her desire to convert to Islam, so he took her to the Sheikhdom of Al-Azhar, where she converted to Islam in front of Sheikh Mahmoud Abu Al-Oyoun, and she continued on the Islamic religion until her death.

Personal Life

Laila Murad was married 3 times during her life. The first was by the artist Anwar Wagdy during their participation in the movie “Laila Bint Al-Faqara” in 1947. The duo separated for the first time in 1951, until the artists Youssef Wehbe and Mohamed Abdel Wahab intervened to reconcile between them, then the second and final separation came in 1954. As for the second marriage, it was a secret marriage to the pilot, Wajih Abaza, who did not want to announce that marriage for fear of the wrath of his ancient family, which included many politicians and ministers. Laila Murad retired from art at the time and gave birth to her son “Ashraf” and increased her concern about the future awaiting her child, which caused many disputes between them until the husband decided to separate one year after their marriage. The third and final marriage came to the director Fateen Abdel Wahab, who was directing a movie for her brother Mounir Murad, and she met him behind the scenes to admire him and marry him, and their marriage lasted 11 years until the separation occurred in 1969. She gave birth to her second son, Zaki, who insisted on entering the art world despite his mother’s refusal, even as he was studying at the Film Institute without her knowledge. Laila Murad was the reason for the separation of her son Zaki Fateen Abdel Wahab from the artist Soad Hosni, whom he married in 1981, due to the age difference between them, as Souad was twenty years older than him.

She was accused of espionage and supporting Israel

In December 1952, Al-Ahram newspaper published news stating that dealing with Laila Murad had been stopped after announcing a Syrian magazine called “The Arab Struggle” that the government had banned the showing of Leila Murad’s films or broadcasting her songs on Radio Damascus because she had visited Tel Aviv and donated 50 thousand pounds for the Israeli Mossad. The news spread quickly and she was followed by accusations of spying for the Israeli intelligence, and of exploiting her relationship with senior statesmen to provide them with important information. Which called many at the time to boycott its work. What reinforced this rumor was that she was of Jewish origin, as well as her absence in Egypt at the time. .

As soon as she learned the news, Laila Murad insisted on returning quickly to Egypt, and immediately began to prove the incorrectness of what was published, as the artist confirmed that she was in Paris and did not leave her place, and used a statement from the Consulate in France confirming her departure from Egyptian lands on August 8, 1952, and her arrival She arrived at Orly Airport on the same day, and had not departed until the time of the announcement. She also proved through the bank mentioned by the newspaper that she does not have an account with it. It also proved through the banks that deal with it that its account does not reach the amount that it was said that it donated. Despite confirming the falsity of the news after that, the Syrian government maintained its position until the intervention of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser and removed those rumors during his negotiations on the Egyptian-Syrian union in 1958.

Her death.

Before her death, Laila Murad suffered from severe anemia that made her constantly bedridden due to her inability to stand on her feet, until she left our world on November 21, 1995, at the age of 77 years.

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