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Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Mata Hari"-Dress Rehearsal (World Exclusive!)

Since the inception of the Marisa Mell Blog several entries have been dedicated to the musical "Mata Hari" from producer David Merrick, directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Marisa Mell and "Bonaza"-star Pernell Roberts. Fresh from the success in movies like "Le Dolci Signore" or "Danger: Diabolik!" in the second half of the 60's the powers that be found it time to transfer Euro-beauty Marisa Mell from Italy to the USA in the wake of other Italian sirens like Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Claudia Cardinale, Virna Lisi.... The fact that she was not Italian but Austrian did not matter. Her appearence was all Italian-like with thick auburn hair, big emerald green eyes and lush voluptious lips. What could you ask for more??? After several appearences in magazines like Vogue and McCall's introducing her to the American audience it was time to throw her into the deep end of the showbizz waters, ready or not! And ready she was not! Being trained as a theatre and movie actress she had no idea what it required to be a musical actress. Although there is a lot in common between the two disciplines its major requirement is that, next to being a stage presence, you need to be trained as a musical singer. Not a common singer of pop songs or classical pieces but in the specific technique of using your singing voice on stage while acting. So you need to master two disciplines. And Marisa Mell was no singer. That was a talent she had not! She could dance, sword fight, ride a horse,... but singing she could not! Compare the 1995 re-recording of the musical sung by professional musical singers with the 1967 bootleg recording then you know what I mean. So the whole adventure in the USA turned into a disaster for her. After a try-out in Washington, D.C., the whole show was canceled and never got to Broadway much to dispair of Marisa Mell. She had high hopes that this production of "Mata Hari" would be her ticket to the USA and showbizz. It did not! She came back one year later very disappointed and desperate. People close to her mention that in fact she never recovered from it and was scarred for life! Others clame that this gave her carreer a whole other direction and was the beginning of her downfall as an A-list actress, once starring opposite Marcello Mastroianni in "Casanova 70".
"Mata Hara" is only a footnote in the musical dictionaries mentioning the musical flop that it was. So there is not much material available on the memorabelia market. Luckily there is the bootleg recording of the production with the voices of the entire cast, including Marisa Mell, speaking her role as Mata Hari with a singing pitch! We are still waiting for original film footage of the production to appear. And now there are these pictures. In my knowledge they have never been published before in any magazine in the world since the days of the production. They show Marisa Mell during a dress rehearsel of the musical on stage. From today's point of view and even from the 60's point of view they are horrible. Marisa Mell had a very sexy slime figure in those days but by the looks of it the producers did everything to cover and distract from it. They are big, dark, depressive and formless cloths. Maybe they should have reflected the poverty of the character or the dispair from World War I. Even Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady", starting out as Eliza Doolittle, the poor flower girl in Victorian London, had more beaufitul cloths than this. If these pictures give some kind of impression of the production quality than it is no wonder that, with everything else we know at the moment, this production was a faillure from the beginning. What is even more a mystery is that these cloths were drawn and made by Irene Sharaff, a 5-time Academy Award winner for productions like West Side Story, The King and I and... Cleopatra with Elisabeth Taylor. Maybe she had a headache the morning when she drew these cloths after a long night of partying and boozing in town? Who knows!


The pictures come from the personal archieve of Marisa Mell thanks to Guido from Italy!

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