Leading actors in Turkish cinema generally become famous by playing in either comedic films or giving life to romantic heroes. Turkish audiences tend not to appreciate roles with dramatic, deep characters and often overlook them as basic supporting roles in conventional Turkish films.There is an ongoing debate about whether great comedians, such as Kemal Sunal and Şener Şen, were as good at playing in dramas as they were in comedies. However, a few actors have exceeded the aforementioned limits. Ranked among the exceptional talent, actor Sadri Alışık is one of the best examples of universal expertise, successfully starring in dramas and comedies alike.
Mehmet Sadrettin "Sadri" Alışık was born on April 5, 1925, in Istanbul. Though his name was Sadrettin, his parents and his sister Nevin nicknamed him Sadri. As a ship captain, Alışık's father Rafet was always at sea, leaving him to be raised by his mother Saffet.
Alışık's parents were religious and authoritarian with strict rules in their family home. However, he was a playful child and always mocked his parents. Once he tied his mother's arm to a door handle as she was praying. He also liked to make up stories and play theatrically with his childhood friends.
When Alışık around 7 years old, Sadri watched a play at Naşid Özcan Theater and fell in love with acting. He played Adalı Halil in "İstiklal Piyesi" ("Independence Play"), a play that brought Turkey's Independence War to life, in a school theater when he was in third grade.
Later, Alışık moved to Cağaloğlu on the European side of Istanbul with his family. He enrolled in Istanbul Erkek Lisesi (Istanbul Boys' High School), one of the best high schools in Turkey. Though the high school did not have a drama club, Sadri often went the theater in the neighborhood's Cağaloğlu Halkevi (People's Cultural Center).
One of Alışık's most admired roles was a tolerant, easy-going, kind-hearted Istanbul man, which reflected his actual personality. Alışık did not graduate from Istanbul Boys' High School. Instead, he enrolled in the painting department at the Fine Arts Academy.
Indeed, the Fine Arts Academy was just camouflage. Alışık was playing various roles in private theaters, including Küçük Sahne, Oda Tiyatrosu, Kent Oyuncuları, among other places.
His father, though he did not approve of his son being a theater actor, advised him "to do his job with his heart, not just with his hands," which led Alışık to give 100 percent of himself to acting.
Acting in movies
Beginning in the mid-1940s, Alışık became a movie actor. His first cinematic part was a supporting role in the film "Günahsızlar" ("The Innocent"), in 1946. From 1949 to 1951, he played in historical dramas, which were very popular at the time. His first leading role was in "Kendini Kurtaran Şehir" ("The City that Saved Itself"), a sentimental historical drama about the Turkish people's resistance against French occupation in the Kahramanmaraş province after World War I.
Alışık also played in dozens of crime dramas in the '50s and '60s. However, it was not until the Lütfi Akad film "Yalnızlar Rıhtımı" ("Pier of the Alone") that he gained great fame. The audience loved him as the honest, loving and decent Rıdvan Kaptan, who looked like his father Rafet.
He fell in love with Çolpan İlhan, who was the lead actress in "Yalnızlar Rıhtımı." They married soon after and stayed married for the rest of their lives. Kerem Alışık, their son, is also acts in theater and film productions.
Alışık played supporting roles in the Mademoiselle series, where he acted alongside giants like Ayhan Işık, who became one of his lifelong friends, and Belgin Doruk. In 1964, he gave life to a unique comedic character, Tourist Ömer. Tourist Ömer was a huge hit, and producers fought to make films with Alışık.
The character Tourist Ömer is still popular today. He resembles an honest but easy-going, poor gentleman. Cem Yılmaz, the famous stand-up comedian, created "Arif," which is kind of a tribute to Tourist Ömer.
In the '60s and '70s, Alışık played other comedic roles, which were to some extent versions of Tourist Ömer.
O beautiful Istanbul
Alışık played "Haşmet," an Istanbul gentleman, who lost his father's inheritance but kept his own kindness, seriousness and gentle nature. Atıf Yılmaz's "Ahh Güzel İstanbul" ("Ohh Beautiful Istanbul"), released in 1966, remains one of the most loved Turkish dramas of all time.
In real life, Alışık was an Istanbul gentleman and a devote artist. He sang Turkish classical music and could paint well, too. Alışık was also a poet and collected his poems in a volume called "Bir Ömürlük İstanbul" ("Istanbul for a Lifetime").
Alışık won Best Supporting Actor at the Antalya Film Festival in 1971 for his role in "Afacan Küçük Serseri" ("The Little Vagabond"). He also won Best Leading Actor in 1994 for his role in "Yengeç Sepeti" ("Crab Basket"), which was his final cinematic role.
Alışık played lead roles in a few TV series in the early 1980s. "Kartallar Yüksek Uçar" ("The Eagle Flies High") scripted by famous poet Attila İlhan and Alışık's brother-in-law, was the first Turkish mini-series watched by a wide range of viewers in Turkey.
Sadri Alışık died on March 18, 1995 in Istanbul and was buried in Zincirlikuyu Cemetery.
His family founded a private theater after his death and named it after him. Alışık and his beloved wife's names live on in the Sadri Alışık Cultural Center run by their son Kerem Alışık.