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Actress in 1959’s ‘Black Orpheus’

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Marpessa Dawn, the Pennsylvania-born actress who played the doomed Eurydice in the classic Brazilian movie “Black Orpheus,” died Aug. 25 of a heart attack at her home near Paris, the New York Times reported, citing her daughter Dhyana Kulth.

Based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, “Black Orpheus” told the story of an innocent country girl, played by Dawn, and a trolley car driver and musician, played by Bruno Melo. The couple meet during Rio’s carnival, but Eurydice is being stalked by Death. Orpheus later retrieves her body from the morgue and falls to his death from a cliff cradling her in his arms.

Directed by Marcel Camus, the film won the Palme d’Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award and Golden Globe for best foreign film in 1960.

Gypsy Marpessa Dawn Menor was born in Pittsburgh in 1934. She was of American and Filipino heritage and moved to England as a teenager, where she had a few small television roles. She later moved to France, where she sang and danced in nightclubs and worked as a governess.

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She appeared in several movies after “Black Orpheus,” but none was as successful.


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