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Friday, August 28, 2009

Annette Who???

After having filmed several movies in German speaking countries of Europe like Germany and Austria, Marisa Mell was ready to spread her wings in the movie business. She longed to film abroad. In 1964 her wish was granted when she got a phone call from England with the request to appear in the first feature film of then TV-director Ken Russell called "French Dressing". Marisa Mell got the leading female part of Françoise Fayol. The movie is a slight comedy about a stodgy British resort. Gormleigh-by-the-Sea is a holiday community besotted with dullness. To liven up, Jim, a young deck-chair attendant, convinces the local entertainment director and mayor into starting a film festival. The town convinces an ambitious French actress Françoise Fayol to be the star of the festival. What happens after that is a series of near disasters, including the failure of a Nudist Beach and a riot at a film premiere. It is left to Jim's American journalist girlfriend to save the situation and the reputation of the town.
It is not known if Marisa Mell was aware of the fact that, unfortunately, she was not the first choice by director Ken Russell to cast her as the French actress visiting the sea side resort. Nope, his first choice was actress Annette Vadim, ex-wife of French director Roger Vadim. Roger Vadim was known during the 60's as the man who made French actress and then wife Brigitte Bardot, a mega-star in Europe, when he filmed her in his cult movie "Et Dieu...créa la femme" (1956). After his relationship with Brigitte Bardot, Roger Vadim hoped to strike gold again by starting a relationship with a little known actress called "Annette Susanne Strøyberg" from Denmark.
The beautiful Strøyberg was born on the island of Fyn, in Denmark, on December 12th, 1934. Her father was a physician who died when she was quite young. She and her sister then moved to Copenhagen where she was raised. She found her way to Paris (France) in her late teens where she worked at couture houses as a model, later finding employment with such fashion notables as Chanel.Annette hooked up with Vadim during the filming of his legendary first feature "Et Dieu...créa la femme". Possessing Bardot's similar erotic balance of melancholy and fragility within her Lolita-like stunning looks, Vadim was immediately attracted to her, when Brigitte Bardot started up a heated affair with young co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant. Vadim moved in with Annette, who subsequently gave birth to their daughter Nadine in 1957. The couple married in June '58. Vadim then proceeded to build and groom a replica of Brigitte Bardot with Stroyberg. Her biggest chance for fame was when he put her on display in the film of the classic novel "Les liaisons dangereuses" (1959) as Marianne de Tourvel, the virtuous victim of the evil Jeanne Moreau and Gérard Philipe. Making her debut, Annette was stunning, of course but found herself quite outclassed by her cast, hardly ready for such a demanding role. And then came the role which gave her a cult status among Eurocult fans and vampire movie lovers.
She earned far more recognition when Roger Vadim cast her in his next movie as a society girl-cum-lesbian vampire Carmilla von Karnstein, falling in love with Elsa Martinelli, in "Et mourir de plaisir" (1960). The same Elsa Martinelli who seduces Marisa Mell in the Lucio Fulci movie "Una Sull'Altra".
By the time of the film's release, however, her marriage to Vadim was history. He had moved on to try and conquer up-and-coming actress Catherine Deneuve. Annette subsequently packed her bags for Italy where she made a few unmemorable pictures, reverting to her maiden name of Strøyberg on marquee boards. In between she managed to amass a number of love affairs with such available playboy actors like Vittorio Grassman, Roberto Rossellini, Alain Delon, Omar Sharif and Warren Beatty. Her last film was "Lo scippo" (1965). Giving up on her career, she turned socialite and married a French Moroccan, dividing her time between Paris (France) and Africa. When that marriage failed, she married a Greek shipping magnate, Gregory Callimanopulos, and settled for a time in America. She returned to Europe after their divorce. Strøyberg died at age 71 of cancer in 2005, and was survived by her three children, one from each of her marriages.
As often written on this blog, Marisa Mell refused to color her dark brown hair into another color so the only solution was to wear a wig like she did in this movie "French Dressing". When you compare the style of the hair of both women you can clearly see that Marisa Mell's wig is copying the hair style of Annette Vadim for her role as Carmilla von Karnstein. So one can assume that Ken Russell was a huge fan of the actress Annette Vadim and her role in that movie from 1960 and had her in mind to play the part in his first movie for the French actress Françoise Fayol. When Annette Vadim fell ill during the pre-production of this movie, he must have been very disappointed and started to look for another European actress to play the role! So it is quite remarkable that he asked Marisa Mell to accept the part because she had only played in a few German speaking movies.
It is not known how Ken Russell got to know the work of Marisa Mell and I wonder if Marisa Mell was aware that she was a copy (and I must say a very bad one with the horrible blond wig) in this movie of another actress. And being a copy of Annette Vadim could explain why she had to wear that wig instead of her beautiful thick brown hair for the role. French Dressing was a big box office disaster and gave the director for several years a trauma. It also ended the British career of Marisa Mell. The next year she relocated to Italy and starred in the cult movie "Casanova 70".

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bin Ich Nicht Fesch?

After filming her first movie as an adult "Das Nachtlokal zum Silbermond" (1959), Marisa Mell played a part of "Olly" in the German movie "Der Brave Soldat Schwejk" (1960) with German cult star "Heinz Rühmann" as the title character Soldier Schwejk. An other cult star in this movie was Austrian born actress "Senta Berger" as Gretl. Both actresses got to know each other during their theatre school years as students at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna, Austria and remained friends during the entire life of Marisa Mell. In this movie, Senta Berger got a film credit and Marisa Mell did not. Why she did not got any credit for her part in two little scenes is not known, fact is that Marisa Mell consciously forgot that she ever played a part in this movie. Due to her small part, there are not many different photo's of Marisa Mell as Olly. Some photo's show her together with co-star Heinz Rühmann. This photo shows Marisa Mell on the stairs on her way to the apartment of her secret lover Oberleutnant Lukas, played by another icon of German movies Ernst Stankovski, who is still active as an actor at the age of 81 and having more than 118 movies and TV-parts on his credit.

Friday, August 14, 2009

La Diabolique

During the height of the Flower Power era in the Sixties, Marisa Mell was drawn for a poster enclosed in a French movie magazine to promote her latest movie "Danger: Diabolik!" (1968). On her dress are written the words "Marisa Mell" and "La Diabolique". Without it, you could not have known that the women on the poster was the actress Marisa Mell because the drawing is not very life like and rather abstract trying to imitate Andy Warhol, who was also at the height of his popularity during that time. The same kind of drawing style and lay out was picked up and better done last year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth by Michael Gillette for a re-edition of the James Bond books by publisher Penguin!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Monokini Adieu?

Paris, Summer 2009. The after effects of an earthquake could not have been more disastereous for the French men than the content of an article that appeared in a French magazine called "Le Parisien" under the title: "Le monokini, c'est fini!". "Are we seeing the end of a French institution?" asked many bewildered men, young or old, on the streets of Paris and other cities in France after the publication of the article on a ordinary wednesday morning on July 22nd! Like other important historic events, the death of President Kennedy, the first man on the moon or the 9/11 tragedy, in future years many French men willl remember where they were on that day when this tragic news for them broke. What is it all about, you ask? Well, after more than 45 years, it seems that France is loosing one of its cultural corner stones for the summer and the beach: "the monokini"! For those few who do not know: the monokini is a woman's one-piece garment equivalent to the lower half of a bikini where the breasts are uncovered or a topless swimsuit, particularly a bikini bottom worn without a bikini top. Although the monokini was invented by the Austrian-American designer Rudy Gernreich in 1964, it were the French women that made the monokini a world wide phenomenon and a sign of women's liberation in the 6o's and the following decennia! The sinlge women who made it all happen and became an icon of the monokini was non other than French movie star Brigitte Bardot! From the moment she declared being a fan of sun worshipping in the semi nude on the beach of her south France vacation home, all the French and European women dropped their top half of their bikini while sun bathing on the European beaches. In the beginning, the elder female beach goers were a little suspecious when seeing a semi nude women sun bathing but only after a few years seeing naked breasts on the beach was nothing extraordinary any more and a view inherent while visiting the beach. And now, after decennia of chest liberty, an era is coming to an end! The journalist of the article noticed during his stay on several French beaches, that more and more young women are not topless while sun bathing. They even don't want to think about removing their top. Only women in their fifties, sixties and even seventies, who were young women during the start and height of the monokini, and quite frankly have never known otherwise than to sun bath topless, are now still doing so! Are those young women more prude than their mothers and grandmothers when they were their age? "No!", says Sabine, a young women selling bathing suits at the beach of Saint Clair au Lavandou (Var), France! "The reason is", she says, "that young women are more body concious about the negative effects of the sun on the skin resulting often in skin cancer! And secondly, the young women of today, do not have to fight anymore for their rights to do with their bodies as they like, like their mothers had to do!". And a last reason for many young women to not do monokini on the beach is the fact they regard wearing a bikini as more sexy and mysterious than showing all their assets at once to future boyfriends, lovers and husbands! So there you have it! The end of an era? Maybe, but like all things in life, everything comes in cycles, so maybe next summer in a year, five years or a decade, the monokini will make its triumphant return on the beaches of France and Europe, so the French and European men can rejoice again, and enjoy their view of women as God created them!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The covers that never were!

During the height of her career Marisa Mell has graced hundredth of covers around the world, not only in the Anglo-Saxon world but also on magazine covers in the Arabic, East, Far East and Latin world! To my knowledge, she has never appeared on the covers of Glamour, Esquire and Vogue. Although she did appear during her Mata Hari musical rehearsal period several times in Vogue and McCalls with a fashion spread but never on the cover! So here are the covers that never were but could have been!