Egyptian cinema did not witness many artists with the strength and talent of the able artist Zaki Rostom. This was not only the testimony of filmmakers and audiences in Egypt or the Arab world, but also on the whole world. International critics considered him one of the most talented artists. “George Sadoul”, the French film historian and critic, said of him that he is a capable artist and an Egyptian version of “Orson Welles” with his expressive features and influential looks. The French magazine Paris Match chose him as one of the 10 best actors in the world.
He is a high-caliber actor, and no one disputes his talent and capabilities. Due to the evil nature of his roles, he was known as the “Cinema Villain”. However, he proved his great ability to diversify in different roles, and was dubbed “the artist with a thousand faces”. He played his roles with great skill and integrated into them to the core, until he was called the “pioneer of the integration school”. Finally, due to his social background, he was called the “Pasha of Egyptian Cinema”. On his birthday, which falls on March 5, we review with you features from the artistic and personal life of the artist Zaki Rostom.
His birth and upbringing
His full name is Muhammad Zaki Muharram Mahmoud Rostom. He was born on March 5, 1903, in the Helmeya district of Cairo. For a high-end aristocratic family, one of the richest families in Egypt. His grandfather is Major General Mahmoud Pasha Rostom, one of the most prominent men in the Egyptian army. As for his father, he is one of the largest owners of agricultural land and a member of the National Party. Zaki Rostom was known from his childhood for his love of sports, especially weightlifting. He won second place at the level of Egypt in the heavyweight weightlifting competition in 1923. He was also known for his love of playing billiards.
Zaki Rostom was supposed to study at the Faculty of Law according to the tradition prevailing in aristocratic families. However, he rebelled against family traditions, refused to complete his university studies, and told his mother that he wanted to be an actor. She completely rejected his choice between art and continuing his life with the family, so he chose art. Therefore, his mother expelled him from the family palace, and he moved to the downtown area to begin his artistic career.
Zaki Rostom’s artistic beginning came in 1924, when he was a student at the baccalaureate stage, when his friend, artist Abdel Wareth Asser, introduced him to the able artist George Abyad, where he impressed him by adding him to his theater group. Then he moved to the Ramses Band in 1925, where he was assigned major roles. Then he joined several groups, including the Fatima Rushdi Troupe, the Aziz Eid Troupe, the Actors Union Troupe, and finally the National Troupe in 1935, in which he remained for ten years. As for the beginning of his cinematic career, it came with the beginnings of the Egyptian cinema itself. He presented the silent film “Zainab” in 1930, in partnership with Bahja Hafez, Siraj Mounir, and Dawlat Abyad. Then he participated in one of the first Egyptian talking films, “The White Rose” in 1932.
His film career
For thirty years, Zaki Rostom’s artistic career spanned, during which he presented many important plays, including: “Confessional, Crazy Laila, Rasputin, Homeland, Cleopatra’s Death, Under the Sky of Spain, Demon, Orphan, Tyrant, Himalayas”.
He also presented 240 films, but only about 60 films are documented. His film roles varied between the aristocratic pasha, the kind father, the son of the country, and the poor employee. He was also distinguished by presenting the roles of evil, including the cruel husband, the fatwa, and the teacher in the vegetable market. That is why critics called him “The Artist of a Thousand Faces”. Zaki Rostom was known for his portrayal of his characters in the most accurate details, leaving a clear imprint in the minds of the audience, and his films became among the most important classics of Egyptian cinema, and we mention them: “Atonement for your sin, Laila, the daughter of the desert, the determination, Laila the Bedouin, this is what my father committed, sunset, Jasmine, the nail of Juha, the daughter of the elders, the seller of bread, a struggle in the valley, a date with the devil, pier number 5, where is my age, the fatwa, the river of love.” The melody of happiness, an angel and a demon, me and my daughters, the forbidden.” His last movie was in 1966, “Summer Vacation”, in which he participated with Farid Shawqi, Hassan Youssef, Najwa Fouad and Nelly.
List of the 100 best films in the history of cinema
The artist Zaki Rostom participated in 8 films that were selected in the list of the 100 best films in the memory of Egyptian cinema, and these films are:
- The movie “The Will” was produced in 1939. The film is co-starring Fatima Rushdie, Hussein Sedky and Anwar Wagdy. It is written by Kamal Selim and Badi’ Khairi, and directed by Kamal Selim. It ranks number 1 on the list.
- The movie “Al Haram”, produced in 1965. The film is co-starring Faten Hamama, and Abdullah Ghaith. It is written by Youssef Idris, Saad Eddin Wahba, and directed by Henry Barakat. It ranks number 5 on the list.
- The movie “bully” produced in 1957. And starring Farid Shawqi, Tahia Karioka, Mimi Shakib and Tawfiq Al-Daqn. It is written by Naguib Mahfouz, Farid Shawqi and Mr. Badir, and directed by Salah Abu Seif. It ranks number 10 on the list.
- The movie “Struggle in the valley” produced in 1954. The film is co-starring Faten Hamama, and Abdullah Ghaith. It is written by Helmy Halim and Ali Al-Zarqani, and directed by Youssef Chahine. It ranks number 25 on the list.
- The movie “Black market” produced in 1945. He is co-starring Aqila Ratib, Imad Hamdi and Abdel Fattah Al-Qasry. It is written and directed by Kamel El-Telmisani. It ranks number 34 on the list.
- The movie “Attorney general” produced in 1946. Co-starring Hussein Riad, Abbas Fares, Madiha Yousry, and Siraj Mounir. It is written and directed by Kamel El-Telmisani. It ranks number 41 on the list.
- The movie “Where has life gone?” produced in 1957. It is co-starring Magda, Amina Rizk, Yahya Shaheen and Ahmed Ramzy. It is written by Ihsan Abdel Quddus and Ali Al-Zarqani, and directed by Ahmed Diaa El-Din. It ranks number 50 on the list.
- The movie “woman on the road” produced in 1958. And participated in Rushdi Abaza, Shukri Sarhan and Hoda Sultan. It is written by Abdel Hob Adeeb and directed by Ezz El Din Zulficar. It ranks number 72 on the list.
Zaki Rostom was unique in his talent, and the most important thing that distinguishes him is his high ability to impersonate any character he presents. That is why critics called him “The leader of integration acting school”. The actresses who costarred with him were afraid of him, especially when the scene required him to hit one of them. Faten Hamama said in one of her interviews that she was terrified when she stood in front of him in the movie “The river of love” because of his intense integration. She said: “Zaki Rostom is so engrossed into the role that when he tears me up, I feel like I’m flying.” As for actress Magda, who co-starred in the movie “Where’s My Life”, she indicated that she was preparing to shoot a scene that required Zaki Rostom to slap her in the face. When I asked about him before filming, I found him alone in his room. She was terrified because she knew he was doing this so that he would integrate into the next scene. While filming the scene, she fainted after he slapped her in the face. When she woke up, her mouth was bleeding and her face was swollen. And when I looked for him, I found him sitting alone crying, and when I asked him why, he said to her: “I hit you against my will, I was in the role.”
The artist, Hoda Sultan, also told that during the filming of the movie “Hamido”, it was during the day in the month of Ramadan, and one of the scenes of the movie required that Zaki Rostom hit her with a slap in the face. No sooner had he done that until she fell to the ground and fainted and lost her speech, and they failed to wake her up, so they called an ambulance. After she woke up and was able to speak, she found him shocked with fear. She said to him: “Forgive me, it seems that I am tired and I can’t bear to fast,” for him to catch his breath and reply, saying: “O goodness, you have almost brought me to grave, meaning fasting is the one that knocked you off, not me.” He insisted that he not repeat the scene and the slap until after breakfast, so that what happened would not be repeated.
Awards and Honors
About 4 years before his retirement from art, specifically in 1962, the artist Zaki Rostom received the Order of Arts, Sciences and Literature from President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
His illness and his retirement
In the early sixties, Zaki Rostom gradually lost his hearing, until he lost his hearing completely. This forced him to leave art, move away from the artistic community, and retire from people. He used to spend most of his time reading, inside his apartment in the Yacoubian Building in the center of the country. Which he lived alone because he was not married. Where he content himself with his dog, the wolf, who used to sympathize with his unit, and the loyal old maid who served him for more than 30 years.
Zaki Rostom suffered a severe heart attack, after which he was transferred to Dar Al Shifa Hospital, to leave our world on February 15, 1972. At the age of 69 years.