Legendary Turkish actor Cüneyt Arkın, 85, died of sudden cardiac arrest late Tuesday. Arkın was one of the veteran artists of Turkish cinema and appeared in more than 300 different movies throughout his acting career.
The famed actor portrayed a wide variety of characters – from an elegant gentleman to a Turkic warrior, space invader and police chief, in the blockbusters of Yeşilçam, the nickname given to classical Turkish cinema. We have compiled the most popular films and roles of the legendary actor who has always made a name for himself to remember him with respect and gratitude.
Born Fahrettin Cüreklibatur on Sept. 8, 1937, to a villager family in western Turkey's Eskişehir province, Arkın, following his secondary and high school education, moved to Istanbul to attend the School of Medicine.
After his medical education, Arkın tried to become a short story writer and became friends with prominent poets, such as Cemal Süreya and Ülkü Tamer. While serving his military conscription in Eskişehir, he also met director Halit Refiğ, who introduced him to the cinema world. Following his military duty, he worked as a physician for some time. Then, he won a contest held by the Artist journal and thus, began his acting career.
Once he got into Turkish cinema, he was very prolific, working in 30 films in his first two years. Then, throughout the mid-1960s and 1970s, he shot to stardom and became a beloved artist among the movie-going public.
The 1964 movie "Gurbet Kuşları" ("Birds of Exile"), telling the struggle of a family who migrated from Kahramanmaraş to Istanbul, introduced Arkın to Turkish cinema. One of the best movies of director Refiğ, "Gurbet Kuşları," is based on the Orhan Kemal novel with the same title. Social reality, immigration, working-class facts and the shattering of a family are the film's main issues. "Gurbet Kuşları" is still considered a success of realism in Turkish cinema. Refiğ won the Best Director Award for the film at the Antalya Film Festival in 1964, transforming him into a respected social realist director.
A fight scene at the end of this movie was a turning point in Arkın's career as it opened the door for action films. Following the movie, Arkın continued to play emotional-romantic young characters in movies for a while. Then, on Refiğ's suggestion, he turned to action movies. During this period, he took acrobatics training for six months at the Cirque Medrano, which came to Istanbul. He brought a unique style to Turkish cinema by transferring what he learned here to the big screen in action movies.
One of the most popular movies in which Arkın appeared as a young, romantic man was "Gözleri Ömre Bedel" ("Eyes Worth a Lifetime"). The movie, which was memorable with its music, is one of the unforgettable black and white love movies in Turkish cinema. In the movie, Turgut (Ekrem Bora), a man of monkey business, plans on robbing the home of a wealthy pianist, Suat (Cüneyt Arkın). Turgut decides to use his lover Leyla (Türkan Şoray) for this plot. Like Turgut asked, Leyla impresses Suat; however, suddenly, a great love sparks between Suat and Leyla, who introduces herself as a poor and lonely woman. The happy couple gets married after a while, but Leyla's past will not leave her alone.
After romantic genre and dramas, Arkın soon became the most sought-after actor in avant-garde action movies. The "Malkoçoğlu," "Battalgazi," and "Kara Murat" series are among his well-known heroic movies.
One of the first films in which Arkın started to take on historical and heroic characters was the "Malkoçoğlu" series. The movies are essentially comic book adaptations. Although the Malkoçoğlu family is a raider tribe that lived in history, their story was brought to the silver screen thanks to a comic book written by Ayhan Başoğlu. Five "Malkoçoğlu" sequels followed the first original movie shot in 1966. The only detail distinguishing these six films from each other is that the first three are black and white. However, quality was preserved in each of the six films shot in five years, and the harmony of directors Süreyya Duru and Remzi Jöntürk drew attention. Arkın's Malkoçoğlu is a raider who made Christians tremble and defended the survival of the Ottoman Empire until the end of all the movies.
The "Battalgazi" series tells the story of Seyyid Battal Ghazi, Arkın masterfully plays the Turkish warrior. The four-movie series shows this semi-legendary personality as a Turkish ruler who terrorized Byzantine lords.
Kara Murat is another character by Arkın as popular as Malkaçoğlu and Battalgazi. In the "Kara Murat" series, Murat is described as a powerful warrior fighting against the Byzantine.
Although he continued his cinema life by playing heroic characters in action movies, Arkın appeared in almost every kind of character in the cinema. Throughout his career, he made films in different genres, from westerns to comedy, adventure films to social films.
One of Arkın's movies featuring social messages was the 1978-made "Maden" ("Mine"). "Maden," which starred many big actors, brought the Best Film, Best Actor (Tarık Akan), Best Actress (Hale Soygazi) and Best Supporting Actress (Meral Orhonsay) awards at the 15th Antalya Film Festival. The production, which touches on the social and political structure of the period and unionization through the miners' struggle, presents a portrait of a relationship that is shaking as well. Ilyas (Cüneyt Arkın) is a revolutionary who tries to explain to all the workers that they do not want to work anymore due to the bad conditions in the mine. When Ilyas, left alone in his case, continues to resist, he is shot by the union lords. After a while, the workers come together for the first time when Ilyas collapses and dies.
Another movie of social concerns was "Yıkılmayan adam" ("Indestructible Man"). The 1977 political movie was the final film of his "The Adam Trilogy," following the 1976 "Yarınsız Adam" ("Man Without Tomorrow") and "Satılmış Adam" ("The Sold Man") 1977. The movie is about a rich girl's desire to marry a unionized youth named Çakır, played by Arkın. While the girl's family opposes their marriage, Çakır starts to fight with the mafia bosses. This film, among the cult films of Turkish cinema, is still popular and remembered for its memorable dialogues.
With the movie "Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam" ("The Man Who Saved the World"), which he shot in 1982, Arkın succeeded in being among the 100 worst films in the history of world cinema. Dubbed the Turkish "Star Wars," the movie is a unique take on some sci-fi and adventure favorites, including "Indiana Jones" and "Ben Hur." Starring heartthrob Arkın in the lead role, the film follows an original script in which two novice astronauts crash-land on a desert planet where an evil force is attempting to take over the world.
With his diverse roles in various genres, Cüneyt Arkın received never-ending admiration from people of every generation. May he rest in peace.