a/k/a Layla Murad".
was a Jewish-Egyptian singer who converted to Islam and actress. She is also credited as "Layla Murad".
Layla Murad was born in Alexandria on February 17, 1918 to Ibrahim Zaki Mordechai and Gamilah Salmon. Her father was a respected singer, musician, and religious cantor, (Hazzan). Her mother was a Jewish Egyptian of Polish origin. One of her brothers, Mounir Mourad, was an actor and composer.
She made her first stage appearance, aged nine, at the Saalat Badi'a, one of Cairo's most successful music halls. The theatre had been founded in 1926 by the actress and dancer Badi'a Masabni, who became Mourad's patron. Her first film appearance, aged fifteen, was in the 1932 al-Dahaya (The Victims) which had originally been made as a silent film. Her song, "The Day of Departure", was added as part of the transformation of the production into a "talkie".
She was trained by her father and Dawood Hosni, who was also Jewish. Hosni had composed the first Operetta in the Arabic language, and he composed two songs for Leila: "Hairana Leh Bein El-Eloub" (Why can't you choose from among lovers), and "Howa el dala'a ya'ani khessam" (Does daliance mean avoiding me?). Further success came when the prominent Egyptian composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab heard her singing and gave her a role in his film Yahia el Hob (Viva Love!) in 1938. In the six years following the success of Yahia el Hob she made five best selling films with director Togo Mizrahi, becoming Egypt's top actress. In 1945 she made Layla Bint al-Fuqara (Layla, daughter of the poor) directed by Anwar Wagdi whom she married shortly after. She went on to make a further 20 films of which the most outstanding is Ghazal al-Banat (The Flirtation of Girls), also directed and co-starring Wagdi. It also featured Nagib al-Rihani and Abdel Wahab in their last appearances on film.
Poster for "The Flirtation of Girls" (1949)
Ghazal Al Banat Movie | فيلم غزل البنات
In 1953, she was selected, over Umm Kulthum, as the official singer of the Egyptian revolution. Shortly thereafter, a rumor that Mourad had visited Israel, where she had family, and donated money to its military, raised suspicions of spying and caused some Arab radio stations to boycott her. She denied these allegations and when called for judicial investigations, maintained her innocence all along, declaring, "I am an Egyptian Muslim". No proof was found that she had contributed money to Israel's military; the Egyptian government investigated and concluded that the charges against the singer were without foundation., but there was no mention of the fact that she did not contribute to Israel as a country, or at least send money to her relatives in Israel .
Some historians claim that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser insisted that Syria end their boycott of her songs and films.
Her decision to retire, aged 38, came with the failure of her last film, Al Habib al Majhoul (The Unknown Lover), the banning of her song, "With Unity, Order, and Work", praising the Free Officers 1952 revolution and the outbreak of the 1956 war. Despite the immense popularity of her films her singing career was over-shadowed by Um Kulthum who dominated Egypt's musical landscape and, in 1949, had become president of the Musicians' Union. In the early 1950s other singers also popular with younger audiences, such as Abdel al Halim Hafez, did not get the same exposure on the radio as Um Kulthum.
Leila Mourad's relationship with her family was not an easy one, possibly due to her conversion to Islam. Between 1967 and 1970, Hundreds of Egyptian Jewish males were deported to the detention camps of Abu Zaabal and Tura, including Leila's brother, Isak Zaki. Families of the detainees were allowed to visit beginning in 1968, and some noted that Leila was never seen visiting her brother.
Leila Mourad made a few brief reappearances during Ramadan in 1970, when she was scheduled to read Salah Jaheen's "Fawazeer Ramadan" (Ramadan' puzzles), a daily traditional radio program held during the Holy month of Ramadan.
Leila Mourad died in a hospital in Cairo in 1995.
Leila Mourad married Anwar Wagdi (1947–1954), over the objection of her father. They were married and divorced three times. Leila gives the reason for her divorces as the fact that she was not fully aware of the seriousness of Wagdi's illness, one that made him constantly irritable and difficult to live with. Later she married Waguih Abaza, and then film director Fatin Abdul Wahab and she gave birth to their son Zaki Fatin Abdul Wahab, and finally divorced in 1969.
Layla with Youssef Wahbi in the film Ghazal Al Banat Her famous songs include:
Her movies include: