Cahide Sonku

Yönetmen, Tiyatro Oyuncusu, Oyuncu

18 Mart, 1981
Diğer İsimler
Cahide Serap

The first female director, theatre and film actress (B. 1916, Yemen/ San’â – D. 18th March 1981). She was the first female film star and first female director of Turkish cinema. Cahide Sonku, whose real name was Cahide Serap, came into the world in a place called Bab-ı Sabah (the Door of Morning) as daughter of a military family. Her grandfather was 7th Army Commander Çorapsız İbrahim Pasha and her father was an officer that served under the command of her grandfather. Her family named the older sister of Cahide as Necdet before she was born because they loved boys very much. They did not break this tradition when Cahide was born and named her Mücahit, which means “warrior”. Cahide’s whole life truly passed in fighting. When Cahide’s father left them when they moved from Yemen to Istanbul, Cahide and her mother found themselves in poverty all of a sudden. When she was going to the secondary school she started working at Basiret Han in Sirkeci for four liras per week upon her mother’s illness. She started acting in the stage when she was in a stage acting club at Community Centers.

An announcement, which appeared in the newspaper in the last week of September 1932, changed Cahide’s life. Şehir Tiyatroları (T. N. City Theatres) was looking for students for the conservatory. Students, which were chosen, were going to study and work. Upon her success in the auditions and the director Muhsin Ertuğrul’s appreciation, Cahide started working as an extra-intern in 1932. She appeared on the stage as an extra in the play “Yedi Köyün Zeynebi” in 1933. She portrayed a rustic girl carrying a pot on her shoulder, who did not have a line (speech) in the play. However, even though she did not have any speech in the play, she memorized every word that all players were going to say. Again in 1933, she appeared on the silver screen with a film named “Söz Bir Allah Bir” that was directed by Muhsin Ertuğrul. She became a star by gaining fame with the film “Bataklı Damın Kızı Aysel” that was made in 1934. In fact, the headscarf that Sonku tied in the film became pioneer of a folkloric fashion that was called “Aysel”. She married actor Talat Artemel in 1937. She became one of the leading actresses of the Şehir Tiyatrosu (T. N. City Theatre) by performing in the plays of writers such as Shaw, Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Chekhov one after another. With her clean Turkish and physical characteristics, she became an actress that was favored by the people in a short span of time.

When Semiha Berksoy became ill, her role as “Solveig” in the play “Peer Gynt” in which Talat Artemel had a leading role was given to Cahide by Muhsin Ertuğrul in 1936. In 1937, her ill mother drew her last breath when Cahide was about to move out of her house to play in the revue “Adalar” in which the music was written by Cemal Reşit Rey. Half an hour before the opening of the curtain, Cahide lost her bearings between her mother’s death and the theatre. However, stage curtain should have never been drawn and thus Cahide went to the theatre and that night while she was in deep sorrow, she danced and sang and still played her role.

She consolidated her film career well with the character she portrayed a tavern woman in “Şehvet Kurbanı” that was also directed by Muhsin Ertuğrul in 1940. However, before all else she was a player of the Şehir Tiyatrosu and she continued acting in the films with Muhsin Ertuğrul. She got married for the second time in 1943. She had a daughter from her husband İhsan Doruk that was a millionaire and the tobacco king of that period. However, she could not establish a relationship with her daughter. After having divorced her second husband, she could not see her daughter very much. Cahide started seriously interesting in the cinema after quitting from Şehir Tiyatrosu in 1948. When the director Seyfi Havaeri became ill while the film was being produced, as a director Cahide Sonku completed the film “Fedâkar Ana” in which she was acting in 1949. Thereafter, she started to sign her name on the films both as an actress and a director. She established Sonku Film Company in 1950 when she was at the zenith of her career. On behalf of this company, she directed “Vatan ve Namık Kemal” with Talat Artemel and Sami Ayanoğlu in 1951. “Vatan ve Namık Kemal” was chosen as the best film and Cahide Sonku was chosen as the best actress for her role in this film in the investigation opened in the same year by magazine “Film Yıldızı”.  

Cahide Sonku also tried a similar formula in the film named “Beklenen Şarkı” in 1954. She broke the box office records with the film, which was also directed by three directors (Orhon M. Arıburnu, Sami Ayanoğlu, Cahide Sonku), in which Zeki Müren was appeared before the camera for the first time. However, when most of the films of the company were burnt in a fire that started after a while, she lost all of her wealth in a few hours and when she had been a millionaire she became indebted. Also, she started leading an irregular life after the death of Talat Artemel. “Cahitler” theatre that she and Cahit Irgat, who was a poet and an actor, established together in the early 1962-63 period was also short-lived. Even though she returned to Istanbul Şehir Tiyatrosu and Dormen Theatre in 1964, she could not make her presence felt and had to move away from the cinema and theatre. She spent the rest of her life in poverty, material difficulties and inner grief, alcohol addiction and as a forgotten person. Screenwriters’ Association gave Cahide Sonku a special award in 1979. Sonku could not go to the party that was organized to receive her award. The Chairman Atilla Dorsay gave Cahide her award in Körfez Meyhanesi. After a long time, after the house of Cahide Sonku, who died in 1981 at the age of 64, was enlarged, it was turned into a restaurant named “Cahide’s”. In 1981, Cahide Sonku felt faint at Alkazar Cinema and died at the age of sixty four and she was buried at Zincirlikuyu cemetery. 

REFERENCE: Büyük Larousse Ansiklopedisi (1986), Meydan Larousse Ansiklopedisi (1988), Agâh  Özgüç  / Peçete Kâğıdındaki Anılar: Cahide Sonku (2007), Emel Yalçın / Efsane Kadınlar 1: Cahide Sonku (2008), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Sanatçılar (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 5, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013). 


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