One of Turkey’s best loved actors passed away in Istanbul earlier today. Halit Akçatepe, who had suffered a stroke last year, was rushed to hospital on Thursday after experiencing breathing difficulties.
A statement issued by the hospital said the veteran actor died as a result of a blockage to the upper part of his respiratory tract.
Regarded as a ‘national treasure’, Akçatepe made his debut as a child actor aged just five, appearing in Dertli Pınar in 1943. The Üsküdar-born star, whose parents were also actors, went on to appear in over 100 movies during a career that spanned seventy years. His last film appearance came in Babam Sınıfta Kaldı (2013).
Akçatepe lacked any form of theatre training, yet he found himself regularly cast in Yeşilçam comedies during the 1970s, including Mavi Boncuk (1974), Köyden İndim Şehire (1974) and Süt Kardeşler (1976). His short height and sweet-yet-cheeky face made him a lovable everyman.
His adult breakthrough role came when he starred as a shepherd (‘çoban’) alongside Tarık Akan and Filiz Akın in legendary Turkish film director and screenwriter Ertem Eğilmez’s hit romantic comedy Tatlı Dillim (1972). The movie marked the start of a long collaboration between Akçatepe and his fellow comedy actors, chief among them Kemal Sunal, who made his film debut in Tatlı Dillim.
The cast worked together on a number of films, but are best known for comedy blockbuster Hababam Sınıfı (The Chaos Class). Based on Rıfat Ilgaz’s bestselling book of the same name, the early movies in this cult comedy film series were all directed by Ertem Eğilmez. Akçatepe had a hand in the casting of the original Hababam Sınıfı movie (1975), whose leading characters are now immortalised in contemporary Turkish cinema culture.
Akçatepe played Güdük Necmi (‘Shorty Necmi’) in the film, a mischievous but popular student whose idealistic notions and witticisms were guaranteed to have the class and audiences in stitches. The role propelled the actor to mega stardom, beloved by the nation. It was a status he was to retain for the rest of his life.
His passing, six months after that of Tarık Akan, sent Turkey into mourning. Turkish Prime Minister tweeted his condolences to the nation, adding: “May God have mercy on Turkish cinema’s Güdük Necmi, Yeşilçam’s legendary actor Halit Akçatepe”.
Comedic actor Cem Yılmaz tweeted his his condolences too, adding “May our master Halit Akçatepe rest in paradise”.
Another Twitter user, Volkan Piri, wrote above a meme featuring Hababam Sınıfı actors Münir Özkul, Adile Naşit, Kemal Sunal, Halit Akçatepe and Tarık Akan: “Hababam have got together in heaven. Thank you for all the beautiful moments you brought to life”.
Akçatepe was married and divorced twice, and is survived by his three daughters.
“Türk sinemasının #GüdükNecmi‘si, Yeşilçam’ın efsanevi oyuncusu #HalitAkçatepe‘ye Allah’tan rahmet, tüm vatandaşlarımıza başsağlığı dilerim” pic.twitter.com/GHDwiUMXpx
— T.C. Başbakanlık (@TC_Basbakan) March 31, 2017
Başımız sagolsun…Ustamız Halit Akçatepe’nin mekanı cennet olsun.
— Cem Yılmaz (@CMYLMZ) March 31, 2017
Hababam cennette buluştu. Yaşattığınız tüm güzel anlar için teşekkürler. #HalitAkçatepe pic.twitter.com/yUBLJEfDBy
— volkan piri (@volkanpiri) March 31, 2017