Hammad said she had found memoirs written by the late star that have not been previously published. She said: “I am currently working on writing an introduction to Layla Murad’s memoirs to be published in the Arab world for the first time, not related to the English version of my book.”
The book also highlights Murad and Wagdi’s keenness to involve the press in their marital disputes because it represented free publicity for their work. Wagdi “was not enthusiastic about her conversion to Islam, and was not among the witnesses,” Hammad said. “An obscure journalist and an employee of the Ifta Department signed the document, but he did insist on announcing her conversion to Islam.”
Hammad also writes about the “period of forced disappearance” of Murad after her relationship with Wajih Abaza, one of the leaders of the Free Officers’ Movement, and the allegations that she had donated to the Israeli military.
She always denied the allegations and offered to make her bank accounts public. Nevertheless, she retired at the age of 38 after that scandal and the failure of her latest film, “Al Habib Al Majhoul” (“The Unknown Lover”) in 1955.
The state “did not make a serious effort to help her overcome the crisis at the time,” Hammad said. The Syrian authorities banned her films, but Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser later persuaded Syria to reverse that decision.
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Hammad says Murad never felt able to make her relationship with Abaza public, which meant the son they had together, Ashraf Wagih Abaza, was not recognised until well after her death. After being abandoned by Abaza, Murad married a third time to the director Fatin Abdel Wahab. That marriage also ended in divorce. Murad died in 1995.
Hanan Hammad is known in Western academic circles as a gender historian. She is interested in the condition of women in the Middle East, particularly Egypt and Iran. She has published earlier research on women workers in textile factories in the Nile delta, as well as feminist issues in Egyptian universities during the 1980s. Before settling in the United States about 20 years ago, she worked as a journalist in Egypt for years after graduating from Cairo University’s Faculty of Mass Communication.