The Greek Tycoon

The Greek Tycoon is a 1978 American drama film, of the roman à clef type, directed by J. Lee Thompson. The screenplay by Morton S. Fine is based on a story by Fine, Nico Mastorakis, and Win Wells, who loosely based it on Aristotle Onassis and his relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy. Mastorakis denied this, instead stating "We're not doing a film about Aristotle Onassis. It's a personification of all Greek Tycoons."[1] The film stars Anthony Quinn in the title role and Jacqueline Bisset as the character based on Kennedy. Quinn also appeared in Thompson's picture The Passage, released the following year.

The Greek Tycoon
Theatrical release poster by David Blossom
Directed byJ. Lee Thompson
Produced byAllen Klein
Ely Landau
Screenplay byMorton S. Fine
Story byNico Mastorakis
Win Wells
Morton S. Fine
StarringAnthony Quinn
Jacqueline Bisset
Raf Vallone
Edward Albert
Charles Durning
Luciana Paluzzi
Camilla Sparv
Marilu Tolo
James Franciscus
Music byStanley Myers
CinematographyAnthony Richmond
Edited byAlan Strachan
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • 12 May 1978 (1978-05-12)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.5 million


The film focuses on the courtship and marriage of aging Greek Theo Tomasis, who rose from his humble peasant roots to become an influential mogul who owns oil tankers, airlines, and Mediterranean islands and longs to be elected President of Greece, and considerably younger Liz Cassidy, the beautiful widow of the assassinated President of the United States. The two first meet when she is visiting his island estate with her husband James, the charismatic Senator from the state of Massachusetts. Theo immediately is attracted to her and, despite the fact she obviously is happily married, begins to woo her aboard his yacht while her husband is deep in conversation with the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As the plot unfolds, Theo's beloved son Nico dies in an accident, his wife Simi commits suicide, James becomes President and appoints his brother John Attorney General, and Theo ends his affair with Paola to comfort and eventually marry grieving widow Liz.



The film was shot on location in New York City, Athens, Mykonos, Corfu, Washington, D.C., and London.

The film's theme song, "(Life is) Just a Dance with Time," was written by John Kongos and recorded by Petula Clark in both English and French (as "Le Grec").

Critical reception

The film opened to negative reviews, for the jet set films of the time were losing audience attention and box office receipts. Audiences had stopped caring about the stories of rich and famous people such as had interested them in the 1960s, in the time of movies like The Carpetbaggers and Where Love Has Gone. In the end, the blockbuster films and special-effects films of the late 1970s attracted more viewers than the films about the decadent rich.

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "as witless as it is gutless" and said it "recalls a sort of newspaper journalism you don't see much anymore — the Sunday supplement recapitulation of a famous murder, divorce or other scandal, put together, from morgue clips, and filled out by the writer with breathless speculation about what really might have happened and what really might have been said, always with more exclamation points than are absolutely necessary. It's the literature of vultures who have no interest in tearing into something of the first freshness."[2]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of 4 and wrote, "'The Greek Tycoon' was not made without a certain style, and it cost a lot of money, but watching it is somehow like witnessing a multimillion-dollar cinematic edition of the National Enquirer." Ebert went on to state, however, that "I must give credit where due: The role of the tycoon is wonderfully well-acted by Anthony Quinn, and the movie's good moments are all his."[3]

Variety said, "It's a trashy, opulent, vulgar, racy $6.5 million picture. You've watched the headlines, now you can read the movie."[4]

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded 3.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "This one is easy to review. 'The Greek Tycoon,' a film a clef about Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, is a lot of fun and it's great looking. And surprise—it's not tasteless." He also called Quinn "superb. He's vulgar, cunning, brutal, funny — a Zorba as captain of a multinational business. Everything about the character is correct."[5]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "surprisingly enough, once past the obligatory gestures to the lavish jet set genre to which 'The Greek Tycoon' inevitably belongs, we're actually able to forget Quinn and Miss Bisset's real-life counterparts and become involved and even moved by a stormy-tender romance between two dramatic people. Writer Mort Fine, working from a story by him and others, and director J. Lee Thompson, who has a knack for drawing fine performances from actors regardless of a film's level or scope, has brought out the very best from Miss Bisset and especially Quinn."[6]

Jack Kroll of Newsweek called it a "foul and sleazy film" that "is so awful you hate to use it to raise an ethical issue, but it does make you wonder just when sleaze curdles into slander - moral if not legal. You don't know whom to feel sorrier for, the bedeviled Jackie Onassis or the beautiful Jackie Bisset. Jackie O can't help being an American obsession, but Jackie B should have known better than to sign on this yacht of fools."[7]

Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film "definitely on the blah side ... Producer Allen Klein and the hirelings responsible for 'The Greek Tycoon' lack the courage of their own tastelessness."[8]

TV Guide rated the film one star and commented, "If you can't guess who the characters are in this, you must have been living on Mars for the last few decades . . . If scenery, greenery, and lavish living are what you like to see, you may enjoy The Greek Tycoon. If honesty, drama, and real feelings are more to your taste, read a book."[9]

Time Out London called the film a "glossy travesty" and added, "Upmarket exploitation pics tend to make it (ie. profit) on the merest smell of money, sex and scandal, and this effort just reeks."[10]


  1. The Golden Turkey Awards. Page 110
  2. Canby, Vincent (May 12, 1978)."Movie: 'Greek Tycoon,' Rotogravure Style". The New York Times. C10.
  3. Ebert, Roger. "The Greek Tycoon". Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  4. Variety review
  5. Siskel, Gene (May 12, 1978). "With Quinn's polish, 'Greek Tycoon' shines in beauty, fun". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 2.
  6. Thomas, Kevin (May 12, 1978). "Fantasy at the heart of 'Tycoon'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 30.
  7. Kroll, Jack (May 22, 1978). "Yacht of Fools". Newsweek. 72.
  8. Arnold, Gary (May 16, 1978). "'Tycoon' and the Bride". The Washington Post. C1.
  9. TV Guide review
  10. Time Out review Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
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