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Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Beauty That Broadway Won't See! (Mata Hari)

During the run up to becoming the female lead in the new musical "Mata Hari", directed by Vincente Minelli, Marisa Mell stayed some time in America. The promotion circus was in full swing in the course of 1967 to promote the unkown Austrian actress in the States. She got photo spreads in magazines like "Vogue" and "McCall's" or was invited to high end functions at state houses, embassies or at private homes of the powers that be, especially in Washington D.C. were the musical was having its try-outs before going to Broadway!

In the newspaper "Toledo Blade" from October 15th, 1967 Marisa Mell gave an interview stating: "I have a higher goal than making one stupid picture after another." She believed that her casting of Mata Hari by Vincente Minelli was to be and would push her career into another direction! In the interview she also told that Minelli selected her for the role after seeing her in the movie "Casanova 70" with Marcello Mastroianni. The audition took place in New York! Although her singing range was not very broad it was enough for what the director Vincente Minelli and producer David Merrick had in mind. 

And so Marisa Mell became the talk of the town or the flavor of the week in Washington D.C. being at the centre of  this gala evening event in the autumn of 1967. Personally I love these pictures of Marisa Mell. Pictures of her can always be catigorized in 3 groups: a) the official publicity photos; b) the photos specially made for magazines or papers, official or unofficial and c) pictures taken by private persons at a function like these ones. They are not staged and show a Marisa Mell in a complete different setting or posture than the first two groups of photos. And they are of course the rarest to be found! What I also like about these pictures is the the theme that Marisa Mell chose for the evening. Her apprearence is very Cleopatra-like, only a few years after the famous and notorious movie with Liz Taylor as Cleopatra. The man holding her fur coat is friend of the moment Bernardo Antonio de Pinho Coutinho Soares de Albergaria Teixeira de Silva or in short "Tony", a diplomat working in the capital. As mentioned in other entries of this blog the American adventure with Mata Hari did not end well for Marisa Mell. The production became a fiasco and never got to Broadway! Marisa Mell was devastated by the failure and took it very hard emotionally. I personally think that one way or the other she did not get over it at all and threw her career and the way she looked at her movies into a complete different direction. Not a good one as time will tell in later years. Thankfully for Marisa Mell in her day and age there was no internet so information, although widespread via television, newspapers and magazines, was still very limited to the countries that they were serving so almost nobody in Europe knew that her stay and musical appearance was a failure. When asked she always told everybody that the musical Mata Hara was a big success in the States and that she made it for several months to Broadway.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

May 16th 1992 - "Ciao Amore!"



On May 16th 2012 it will be already 20 years that Marisa Mell succumbed to her fatal illness “throat cancer” a result of her heavy jet set lifestyle for years in a deadly mix of continuous smoking, drinking and drugs! For doctors throat cancer is almost always a dead giveaway of having abused the body over a very long period of time with the before mentioned substances! Having fought the disease for several months after its discovery employing all the known cancer remedies her ravaged body could not find the strength any more to fight the ultimate battle. It was enough! It was time to go! Marisa Mell died on May 16th 1992 at 7.30 AM at the Wilhelminenspital in Vienna, Austria, high on morphine to subdue the immense pains of the disease, in complete anonimity from the outside world and above all very alone! No family, no friends, no loved ones were present on her last trip at the time of death! She was only 53 years old! In fact it was not the actress Marisa Mell who died on that day. Marisa Mell had already faded away into oblivion years earlier when she came back out of necessity and poverty from Rome, Italy to Vienna, Austria. No, on that fateful day Marlies Thères Moitzi died, the civilian women behind the film diva “Marisa Mell”, a movie icon for so many men during so many years! Death must have been a liberation for her to finally shed off the heavy burden of living the life of a former glamorous movie star hitting the rocks. When Marisa Mell said goodbye to her friends she always ended before going away with two words:"Ciao Amore!". 

During the month of June in 2002 I was able to visit the grave of Marisa Mell in Vienna. The longing to do so was still there during all those years but in the end something always prevented me to do it!

At the beginning of March of that year my employer called me to her office to tell me that during the month of June she and I would be going on a company paid trip to Vienna to be guests at a classical musical festival in the city of music! And the best, I could stay for several days after the festival while she would fly back to attend business. I had started this new job half a year before during a very busy period at the office, working long hours under heavy strain so this was a way of showing her appreciation for me. A complete stay in Vienna paid by the company for several days, all included! Grand! This had to be a sign that it was the moment to finally visit the grave of Marisa Mell. So it happened.

After my professional duties at the music festival and putting my boss back on the plane home I took a train from Vienna to a little village outside of Vienna to the north of the town called “Kahlenbergerdorf”, where the last resting place was situated of Marisa Mell. Finally!

The village is situated on the right hand bank of the Danube, the majestic stream playing such a major part in the history of Austria and its capital Vienna. The origin of the village can be traced back as far as 1133-1166 in an official document. The village is in reality probably much and much older dating back to the early centuries of our timeline.

Getting off the train the first thing that you notice facing the village is the bell tower of the church against  the back drop of the surrounding hills completely enclosing the village against the Danube! These hills are part of the greater Wiener Wald.

Often in a village dating back to the Middle Ages in Europe the cemetary is situated around the chuch which then forms the centre of the village. This is not the case at Kahlenbergerdorf. The chuch forms indeed the centre of  the community but its cemetary is situated on the slope on one of the surrounding hills.

So at the border of the village this sign shows you the way up to the "Friedhof". When I was there I did not noticed it at first so I had to go back on my track to check if I was indeed walking up the right hill to the cemetary. It is a winding road that takes you up all the way through the beautiful surrounding hills with some stunning views of the landscape with hills almost all covered with wine ranks!

And just when you think "How much further is this cemetary situated on this never ending winding road....?"

The gate of the cemetary appears in front of you on your right hand side of the road. So this it then! The entrance to the final resting place of Marisa Mell. After so many years of longing to visit the place and reading about it in the Erika Pluhar book "Marisa - Rückblenden auf eine Freundschaft" it was the moment to discover what the place looked like! My first impression was that this entrace looked a lot like a cemetary out of an old Gothic horror movie like the Universal or Hammer ones! And yes, the gate was screeching when you opened it! The only thing that was missing was a sudden burst of lightning or thunder above your head!

The cemetary has an historic old part and a newer part. Marisa Mell is burried in the newer part of the lot. This massive cross of Jesus Christ is situated at the centre of the old part of the cemetary and is really imposing when standing in front of it! It is made completely out of wood! I always wonderd why the Catholic religion took a cross a means of torture/death or a cross with a man suffering to death on it as a symbol of Love, Hope and Light! So strange! And that was the first thing that came to my mind again seeing this statue rising up in front of me when climbing the slope to see it!

When entering the newer part of the cemetary you can not escape seeing this little chapel with two kneeling angels in front of you! After the funeral ceremony in the village church the priest together with the casket and the mourners go all the way up to the cemetary for the second part of the ceremony, the burial of the deceased. In this little church the priest gives his last blessings to the deceased. The chapel was probably build at the beginning of 1970's as you can clearly see by the sculpted angels done in a typical 70's style.

And finally all the way up at the top of the cemetary: the grave of Marisa Mell! Looking around you notice again the stunning view of the surrounding hills and the village Kahlenbergerdorf at its foot with the Danube. In the first few years after her death the grave of Marisa Mell had a simple wooden cross. Marisa Mell had no money so the parish priest payed for the grave lot together with a wooden cross. When it was weathered during the next years by the forces of nature it was finally replaced by a massive pink stone to give the grave a more permanent fixture.

Being on the graveyard it gave me piece of mind have fullfilled a long time dream. Finally being at the last resting place of Marisa Mell, an actress that I have admired for a very long time! A longing came to an end! During my stay at the grave the whole time I did not encounter any visitors! It was very quite and sereen with only the birds singing in the trees and insects swirling around one's head. Luckly it was not a very hot summers day with a burning sun so I was able to sit there in peace for more than a hour before going back to the station and journey back to the city centre of Vienna. During that hour I looked back on the life of Marisa Mell and why it touched me so deeply again and again whenever I think about it. A life with ups and downs, love and hate, money and poverty, friendship and loneliness, health and sickness, victory and defeat... and all the other challenges that life throws at you. Looking back on her life, it made me realize that life offers no guarantees and that you should always enjoy every moment of the now and create good memories for you own future self because you never know when it all might end or how life may throw you into a complete other direction than the present, in a good or bad way. In the end, Marisa Mell's life became a constant reminder off that for me! Finally it was time to go and say goodbye! While going down the hill after that hour of introspect I remembered the caption on the back of the Erika Pluhar book about her best friend written by a journalist of a newspaper after having read her book: "Philosphinnen wollten Marisa Mell und Erika Pluhar werden damals in der Schule. Sie sind es geworden, auf eigene schmerzliche Weise." So true! Arriving at the foot of the hill at the entrance of the village, I looked back over my shoulder towards the top of the hill in the direction of the grave saying quitely to Marisa Mell: "Ciao Amore!".

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Doppia Coppia con Regina" - Set photos

In 1972 Marisa Mell starred in the Spanish drama production "Alta Tension" from director Julio Buchs with fellow co-stars Gabriele Ferzetti and Helga Liné. Among fans of Marisa Mell the movie is often better known as "Doppia Coppia con Regina", the Italian title of the movie. What makes this set of photos remarkable is that they are not, as often is done, taken from the film negative but are in fact on set pictures taken by a set photographer mostly working next to the running film camera or taking shots of the action and the stars between the set up of the next movie shots! So this is quite rare to see these on set photos of Marisa Mell during the production of a movie! These photos are not regarded as behind the scene photos because there is no equiment or staff visible on them. On set pictures were often used for promotion of the movie in magazines, newspapers...

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Two "Marisa"s by Helmut Berger

On november 1st 2012, the German publishing company Schwarzkopf Verlag situated in Berlin published a very luxurious photobook on the life of the once European cult movie star and present day always doped enfant terrible Helmut Berger called "Helmut Berger - Ein Leben in Bildern". This book has around 500 pictures trying to give an insight into the life of Helmut Berger from early childhood with his family over his first steps into becoming a world movie star followed by his down fall untill the present day with focus mainly on the many women and sometimes men in his life! All the major actresses at the height of his career in the 60's and 70's have a place in this book like Romy Schneider, Ursula Andress, Sophia Loren... and Marisa Mell.

What is strange about this book is the fact that Marisa Mell appears only on two pictures in this massive book with so many pictures. I understand that this book is a labour of love from the editor for the object of his affection Helmut Berger and that on the most part of the photo's Helmut Berger is in a single pose! Nevertheless this does not take away that Marisa Mell and Helmut Berger had a very intense friendship and even relationship with one another during more than three decades untill her untimely death. Both heralding from Vienna, Austria made that bond very special, giving Marisa Mell a more than special place in his life! I am not even mentioning the drug, alcohol and substance abuse that was common practice between them or being at his bed side after his suicide attempt together with Romy Schneider. So it would only been fair to Marisa Mell that more never before seen pictures were published in this book than the meager two pictures! Sigh! But the brain of Helmut Berger is already so far gone by constant drug and alcohol abuse since decades that he probably hardly can remember his life with Marisa Mell and the shit that he gave her during his life time! During the presentation of the first copy of his book by the editor/publisher a picture appears in the book of Helmut Berger with an actress on the cover of  American "Vogue". Very proudly Helmut Berger tells the editor of his book that he was the first man ever gracing the cover of this fashion magazine together with Marisa... Mell. Sadly this was not true because the actress on the cover was "not" Marisa Mell but Marisa Berenson. 

Thanx to André Schneider for informing me about the existence of this book!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

DIABOLIK-La Serie! - Trailer


A few weeks ago I was pleased to announce that a new Diabolik television series was in the making and that a trailer was being made for the television markets around the world to invest in and/or buy the series! And here it is! AMAZING! 

Do you want to know more about the behind the scene production of this exciting new series? All the info and some stunning production pictures can be found Diabolik-Behind the scene!

At the moment nothing is known about the actors that are going to play the different parts of Diabolik, Lady Eva Kant or Inspector Ginko!

Can't wait to see the complete series!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Into the groove!

Dedicated to Jochen K. from Graz, Austria, a Marisa Mell fan with a big heart for everything Eurocult movies and music! Thanx my friend!