To me she will always be Bouboulina. This is Lila Kedrova. Bouboulina – Dame Hortense – she was in the 1964 movie Zorba the Greek of Cypriot Michael Cacoyannis. She, Bouboulina with the sharp little periwinkle-blue eyes, soft wrinkled wrists, little puckered lips and plump little arms, lover of admirals and guest house keeper […]


Kedrova as Bouboulina in Zorba the Greek

Kedrova as Bouboulina in Zorba the Greek

To me she will always be Bouboulina.

This is Lila Kedrova.

Bouboulina – Dame Hortense – she was in the 1964 movie Zorba the Greek of Cypriot Michael Cacoyannis.

She, Bouboulina with the sharp little periwinkle-blue eyes, soft wrinkled wrists, little puckered lips and plump little arms, lover of admirals and guest house keeper on the island of Crete.

She, Lila Kedrova, co-star of Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates and Irenè Papas in this black-and-white movie based on the wonderful novel of Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis.

Remembering her I went to her grave in the Russian cemetery at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois south of Paris.Bouboulina 1

And now today I tell you that should you live in Paris or in France or you are visiting, and you remember the movie Zorba the Greek and Bouboulina, do visit the Russian cemetery. Do so not only for Bouboulina, because she will be so pleased that she does not lie there forgotten, but the cemetery is a most interesting and beautiful one and you will not regret having gone there.

Lila Kedrova was Russian. She was born on October 9, 1918, or thereabouts, in Saint Petersburg, then Petrograd. She was the daughter of composer and bass singer, Nikolai Nikolayevich and soprano Sofia Gladkaya Kedrova. The family remained in Russia after the 1917 overthrow and murder of Tsar Nicholas 2 and his family, but around 1922 they left for Berlin. The German sojourn was short however as in 1928 they arrived in Paris where many ‘White’ Russian exiles were driving taxis in order to put at least some bread and jam on the dinner table.

The Kedrov ( also known as Kedroff) couple had, beside Lila, another two children: Nikolai Nikolayevich who became an opera singer and composer and  Irina Kedrova, the soprano.

In Paris Nikolai and Sofia taught music and founded the vocal Kedroff Quartet. Their daughter Lila began to act accepting small parts in stage plays.  The small parts continued until 1964 when Cacoyannis offered her the part of Dame Hortense in the movie he was to make of the Kazantzakis novel.

Few had heard of her before then, but I am sure had you seen the movie her little round face with two little round rouged cheekbones, you will remember her.

In fact, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress that year of 1964.

The young Kedrova

The young Kedrova

And in 1983, again Dame Hortense, but in the musical version of the movie, she won both a Tony Award for Best Performance in a Musival and a Drama Desk Award. She was then, if she were to believed that she had been born in 1918, 65 years old.

After a Broadway career, she died in Ontario, Canada on February 16, 2000 where she had a summer house. She had suffered with Alzheimer’s for some time, but it was pneumonia which carried her off. She was then 72 years old. (It is a woman’s right to hide her age, is it not?)

Her ashes were brought to Paris and to the Russian cemetery at Sainte-Geneviève-des Bois where it was laid to rest with her father who had died in Paris in 1940,  her mother who had died in Paris  in 1965, her brother Nikolai Nikolayevich who had died in Paris in 1961, and her sister Irina Nikolayevna Petrova who had died in Paris in 1989.Bouboulina 2

She lies buried under the name Elisabeth Nikolayevna Kedrova.

The number of Lila ‘Bouboulina’ Kedrova’s tomb is 411.

You reach the cemetery by taking the RERC (métro) line from Paris in the direction of either Dourdon la Fôret or Saint-Martin d’Etampes. You descend at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois and outside the station you take the 104 bus to the cemetery. You descend about 20 minutes later at the stop Piscine from where there is still a short walk to the cemetery.

If you think you will not find your way, email me on this site as I know someone who will be your guide at a small fee.

The cemetery is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Now, I need to talk more about the movie Zorba the Greek.

There was the music by Mikis Theodorakis and the unforgettable ‘Zorba’s Dance’.dance

And there was the book.

The opening sentences are:

I first met him in Paraeus. I wanted to take the boat for Crete and had gone down to the port. It was almost daybreak and raining …

The book tells the story of a young Greek writer who goes to Crete to re-open a disused lignite mine and in the boat that carries him to the island he meets the peasant Alexis Zorba, a former miner and player of the santuri.

In the movie the Greek writer becomes an English writer played by Alan Bates. Zorba is played by Anthony Quinn which to me was his best role and for which he should have received the Oscar he had been nominated for. Through Zorba the naïve Englishman learns about life and love.

It is a wonderful movie. If you have not watched it, do so too. It is available in Video and also often runs on late-night TV.

This is a conversation between Zorba and the writer in the book:

Zorba: “Can you tell me, boss, what all these things mean. Who made them all? And why? And above all, why do people die?

The writer: “I don’t know, Zorba.”

Zorba: “Well, all these damned books you read – what good are they? Why do you read them?  If they don’t tell you that, what do they tell you?”

The writer: “They tell me about the perplexity of mankind who can give me no answer to the question you’ve just put me, Zorba.”

Zorba: “Oh damn their perplexity!”

Then, in the movie there is a wonderful conversation between Zorba and the English writer.

The English writer: “Zorba, are you married?”

Zorba: “Yes, boss. I’m married. I have a wife. I have children. The whole catastrophe.”

Zorba the Greek was first published in English translation in the USA in 1953 by Simon & Schuster.

Sadly, all of those I mentioned above, but for two, are no longer with us.

Cacoyannis died in 2011.

Anthony Quinn died in 2001.

Alan Bates, then Sir Alan Bates, died in 2003.

Nikos Kazantzakis died in 1957 therefore before the making of the film.

Irene Papas is one of the two who are still alive. She is today 87. The other is Mikis Theodorakis. He is today 88.

I have written about the cemetery here. It is in this cemetery where Nureyev lies buried.

Zorb film post






Marilyn Z. Tomlins

4 Responses

7-28-2013 at 07:32:14

Your Comments

What an interesting story. People usually steer away from a cemetery but we forget that each grave has a story to tell, a life once lived. And you Marilyn expertly brings that story of a life once lived across.

7-28-2013 at 18:41:33

Screenwriter and producer Larry Kramer and director Ken Russell adapted the novel in the Academy Award-winning 1969 film Women in Love (for which Glenda Jackson won for Best Actress). It was one of the first theatrical movies to show male genitals, when Gerald Crich (Oliver Reed) and Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates) wrestle in the nude in front of a roaring fireplace.

7-28-2013 at 19:20:07


I adored Alan Bates. I saw Women in Love. It was quite daring for 1969.

7-28-2013 at 19:20:40


Thank you for the compliment.

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