The famous ” drunk” of Greek cinema who… never drank!

The famous ” drunk” of Greek cinema who… never drank!

“Are you drunk again? You drink like Orestes Makris.” The man whose full name is still to this day, to the much younger generations who learn about him through his films, is still associated with drunkenness, Orestis Makris, would certainly not want to be remembered in this way. Even more so, since the actor did not drink at all in his personal life.

In fact, Orestis Makris was one of the most important Greek actors of his generation. He left his own unique mark on the cinema, but he gave the philothean audience, which filled the theatres in his heyday, some unforgettable theatrical performances that are still remembered today.

But what few people know about Orestis Makris is that he also had a wonderful voice.

He was born on 30 September 1899 in Chalkida. He studied vocal music at the Athens Conservatory and at the age of 20 he enlisted and served in Asia Minor. He appeared on the stage first as a tenor in the Rosalia Nika company in 1925, then in the company of Ioannis Papaioannou and later switched to the genre of comic roles. In 1939 he joined the Nikos Miliadis – Kyriakos Mavreas theatre company.

Antonios Vottis established him in the review. Seeing his rich acting talent, he assigned him the role of the “drunkard”, which he had written three years ago and could not find a suitable actor to play it. By singing and playing the number “Me len drunk” in the 1932 revue “The Parrot” with the company of Spyros Patrikios, he became overnight a leading actor of the light theatre. “Drunkards, even if they are put on trial, will be hanged unjustly”, he used to say, rousing the audience that rushed to the theatre just to enjoy this particular act.

To what does he owe his outstanding performance? To a real person who often wandered around the quaint little taverns of Plaka. Makris had seen him and had copied his expressions and movements to transfer them to the role he played in the show.

Orestis Makris, established himself in the role of the “drunkard”, only his second film, to which he gave social dimensions: he “drank” to overcome life’s dead ends. He embodied the same character in the cinema in 1950, in George Tzavellas’ film ‘The Drunkard’. He himself, as they say, never drank a sip of wine.

With a kindness that is rare, ethos, measured and serious but also with a caustic humour, Orestis Makris had nothing to do with the roles he played in the cinema.

Little is known about his personal life. In a rare document with his daughter, Katerina, at his home in Chalandri in the early 1970s a few years before he passed away, as written by the photo collector, Aris Loupasis, who goes on to give a glimpse into the artist’s personal life:

“His marriage to Varvara, who was his great love and life partner, took place in the late 1920s where they had Katerina and then their son Themistocles. As his daughter says in an interview, he was an excellent father, always modest and discreet who did not wish to show how great he was in the field of acting. The family lived in the first years in Adrianou Street in Plaka and in ’54, during the years of the great film successes, they moved to a beautiful house in Chalandri. This particular house is located in the area of Fragoklisia at the height of L. Penteli where one of the alleys of the street bears his name”.