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Monday, January 19, 2009

Wien, Biberstrasse 9

Being an avid long time collector of Marisa Mell memorabilia, it is not so easy any more to get surprised or being put a smile on your face thanks to the massive number of objects one has seen and collected during hunting time. So finding an exclusive object for your collection is becoming a rarity. Finding a exclusive object with an historical significance is even more of a rarity, if not almost impossible these days where collectors are snatching up everything that comes on the memorabilia market connected to a beloved actor or actress (whatever de flavor of the month may be). But exceptions still exsist, if only because the seller doesn't know what he is dealing or doesn't care and wants only to make a return on his investment. Whatever the case, a few weeks ago I had an incredible find for me as a "Marisa Mell" fan that was not originally intended but surpises are still possible in todays hard driven movie collectors world. So what happened? Well, during an auction in Austria, there was a production photo advertised from the Edgar Wallace movie "Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee" with the main actors Marisa Mell and Adrian Hoven pictured on it.A production photo is a staged photo by the actors acting some kind of scene or very close to a scene from the movie. The photo is not taken during shooting but mostly off scene when the actors are free and waiting for an another scene to be set up by the production crew for shooting. I had not such a photo in my collection for this movie so I bought the picture.
Nothing special on first sight I hear you say! Indeed, a nice vintage picture of Marisa Mell during her production time from december 1962 untill february 1963 on the movie. When I turned the picture to see the back of it, I saw that someone had scribbled on it, probably someone from a (Austrian or German) press agency.
On the back was written in a women's handwriting:

"Gangster in London"
Marisa Mell
Wien I., Biberstrasse 9
Tel: 52-60-233

And then it hit me! The handwritting was not from some women at a press agency as I presumed but the handwriting belonged to "Marisa Mell" herself! Could this be? Upon closer inspection I noticed that the words and her name were written in her characteristic handwriting. And yes, it was all there: the flowing stream of her handwriting, the characteristic "M"s en "L"s in her name "Marisa Mell". I could not believe it! So what was the purpose of this photo and its history???

The movie later known as "Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee" was based on a novel called "Gangster in London" written by crime author Edgar Wallace. During the production of the movie everybody on the production team called the movie "Gangster in London", its official production title. It was only at the end of the production and before the opening of the movie that the producers decided to change the title to its actual known title because of the success of their previous Edgar Wallace movie "Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzizzen" from 1961. So therefore, the card most have been written by Marisa Mell before the opening of the movie and during the production of it. If not, she would have used its official title!

Marisa Mell is the stage name of Marlies Moitzi. Since the start of her career Marisa Mell wrote her name almost always in the same way or fashion with very pronounced "M"s en "L"s. In the beginning she was not very known as an actress so she had time to write her name in a very correct and clear fashion, very readable, for example her "a"s are closed at the top and are a letter "a". In later years when she got busier and had more fan cards to write, her writing would still be very distinctive but for example her "a"s would be more flatter, often open and stretched out. They somethimes looked like "o"s. If there would be any doubt about the authenticity of the writing the autograph of Marisa Mell is a certainty that it is her writing.

In late 1962, Marisa Mell was still struggling as an actress. Although the parts in her films were getting bigger and bigger, she still needed to convince the producers to accept her for a role! Her part as Lilian Granger in "Das Rätsel der Roten Orchidee" was a big step in the right direction. Being part of the Edgar Wallace franchise could mean a boost in an actor's career. So the use of a photo from that movie proved that you had a leading part, especially when your counterpart was the well known and loved actor Adrian Hoven who had already carved for himself a career in German language movies! From the writing we learn that Marisa Mell was living during the production of the movie in the 1st district of Vienna! Vienna is the capital of Austria. During the beginning of the 60's a lot of movie's were being made in Vienna for the German language market. So it was only natural that Marisa Mell, after graduation from her theatre school "Max Reinhardt Seminar", would stay in this city to get a job in the then film business. A few years later she would relocate to Rome, Italy for her career in Cinecitta. The 1st district Vienna is at present recoded as "1010" Vienna. The street where she was living is called "Biber"-strasse or in English "Beaver"-street at number "9". Take a look at the odd way she is writing the number "9". Normally a number "9" is written by putting the long stroke down from the naught on the right hand side but she makes the opposite movement and connects the long stroke down on the left hand side from the naught. I have never asked me that question but "Was Marisa Mell left handed when writing?" Today, the street still exsists, even with a number "9". The building is reformed from living quarters into an office block with a coctail bar and lounge called "Sofie's Bar", a spiritual center and a luxury car rental office! And finally we get to know her telephone number: 52-60-233. Naturally the number does not exsist anymore today and is out of order.

So what could have been the origin of this photo and the writing on the back? In my opinion, there are two possibilities. First the photo was used by Marisa Mell to be sent together with a solicitation letter and cv to a movie production firm to be concidered for a new part or audition in a future movie that she heard of. The argument against this possibility is that the picture has no staple holes from being attached to a solicitation letter but on the other hand it could have been put in an envelope together with the letter. Second possibility is that she had the picture with her and that she used it as reference card when she met some producers on a social gathering. So she wrote her name, adress and telephone number on the back of the picture together with the name of the movie she was currently working on as a reference for the producers when they later would eventually make a selection of actresses for a film part. Personally I think that the last possibility could have happened! Unfortunately we will never know.


Keith said...

Hey Mirko. Wow! Great write-up. I really loved reading this post of yours. That is so fantastic that you got such a great find! Congratulations on it. I'm happy for you. I'm sure it was quite exciting to not only buy this item, but see the writing on the back and realize it was hers. That is so cool. I think your theories on it are very plausible.

Mirko di Wallenberg said...

Hi, Keith, I was very happy with what I had bought because it is very difficult to find some material of MM other than her autographs! Thanks for being such devoted reader! Greetings, Mirko!