‘Movies are my life and my life is a movie,’ said Marisa Mell, the Austrian actress whose beauty channelled Brigitte Bardot as a brunette. If that were so, Mell was denied a happy ending.
Marisa Mell in Italy, 1967. (Photo by STILLS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

When it came to marketing an actress in the 1960s, there were few more compelling narratives than ‘convent girl gone bad’.

Born in 1939 in Graz, Austria, Marlies Theres Moitzi would eventually play the part with knee-weakening, stomach-flipping, throat-tightening aplomb. Before that, however, she would change her name to something less challenging for non-Teutonic tongues, and the world would come to know her as Marisa Mell.

It was by all accounts a tough upbringing: dad left early and mum was granted housing within the school complex where she worked. Education was at the hands of women whose first name was Sister, but it was celluloid that proved the real teacher.


David Smiedt


January 2022

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