19 April 2014

Marie Versini

French film star Marie Versini (1940) is best known of the Karl May Westerns as Winnetou’s sister. The lovely, beguiling, dark-haired actress had an international film career in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Marie Versini
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 899. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Marie Versini
German postcard by ISV, no. E 35. Photo: Constantin. Publicity still for The Brides of Fu Manchu (Don Sharp, 1966).

The Love Interest of Sean Flynn

Marie Versini was born in Paris, France, in 1940. She was the daughter of a grammar school teacher.

In 1954 she started to follow classes at the Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique. Her film career started at the age of 16 with a bit role in Mitsou (Jacqueline Audry, 1956), based on the novel by Colette.

In 1957 she became the youngest company member of the Comédie Française in Paris. She would play roles in the plays of Moliére, Jean Racine, Beaumarchais, Victor Hugo, and William Shakespeare.

Her film debut was followed by parts in the British Charles Dickens adaptation A Tale of Two Cities (Ralph Thomas, 1958) with Dirk Bogarde, and the French TV-film Britannicus (Jean Kerchbron, 1959) based on the play by Jean Racine.

She played at Eddie Constantine's side in the gangster film Chien de pique/Jack of Spades (Yves Allégret, 1960).

She also appeared in the American productions Paris Blues (Martin Ritt, 1961) with Paul Newman, and in Roger Corman's actioner The Young Racers (1963) with Mark Damon.

In Italy, she was the love interest of Sean Flynn, the son of Errol Flynn and Lily Damita, in the adventure film Sandokan, la Tigre di Mompracem/Temple of the White Elephant (Umberto Lenzi, 1963).

Marie Versini, Pierre Brice
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 892. Retail price: 10 Pfg. Photo: Rialto / Constantin / Kran. Still from one of the Winnetou films with Marie Versini and Pierre Brice.

Marie Versini, Lex Barker
German postcard, no. E 30. Photo: still from one of the Winnetou films with Marie Versini and Lex Barker.

Marie Versini
German card by Marie-Versini-Club. Photo: publicity still for Ferien mit Piroschka/Piroschka (Franz Josef Gottlieb, 1965).

Winnetou’s sister

Marie Versini's breakthrough came in the German/French/Yugoslav coproduction Winnetou I. Teil/Apache Gold (Harald Reinl, 1963). This was a film in a series of European Technicolor Westerns based on the Winnetou-stories of German author Karl May.

As in most of these films, French actor Pierre Brice starred as the brave Indian Winnetou, and former Hollywood Tarzan Lex Barker co-starred as his loyal friend Old Shatterhand.

Marie Versini played Winnetou’s sister Nscho-tschi, who also became friends with Old Shatterhand. With this role she became – overnight - tremendously popular in Germany.

She would appear in four more Karl May adventures: Der Schut/The Shoot (Robert Siodmak, 1964), Durchs wilde Kurdistan/Wild Kurdistan (Franz Josef Gottlieb, 1965), Im Reich des silbernen Löwen/Attack of the Kurds (Franz Josef Gottlieb, 1965) and Winnetou und sein Freund Old Firehand/Thunder at the Border (Alfred Vohrer, 1966).

Besides the Karl May films she also took part in the popular German productions Kennwort...Reiher/The River Line (Rudolf Jugert, 1964) and Liebesnächte in der Taiga/Code Name Kill (Harald Philipp, 1967), and in the French war film Paris brûle-t-il?/Is Paris Burning? (René Clément, 1966) with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Marie Versini in Der Schut
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 921. Retail price: 10 Pfg. Photo: Gloria / Schnelle. Publicity still for Der Schut/The Shoot (Robert Siodmak, 1964).

Marie Versini
German postcard by Ernst Freihoff, Essen. Photo: Lothar Winkler.

Marie Versini
East-German card by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Winnetou May Not Die

In the 1970s her activity in front of the film cameras diminished, but she was regularly seen in TV productions.

To her later work belong an episode of the serial Paul Temple: Antique Death (1970), Der Lift/The Elevator (Georg Tressler, 1972), Pour une poignée d'herbes sauages (1973), an episode of the serial Arsène Lupin: Le film révélateur (1974), the serial Die Pawlaks/The Pawlaks (Wolfgang Staudte, 1982) and the serial Die schöne Wilhelmine/The Beautiful Wilhelmine (1984).

In 2007 she returned to the screen in the documentary Winnetou darf nicht sterben/Winnetou May Not Die (Oliver Schwehm, 2007), a portrait of Pierre Brice.

Marie Versini published two books: her memoirs Ich war Winnetous Schwester/I Was Winnetou’s Sister (2003), and the Western novel Rätsel um N.T/ Mysteries Around N.T. (2008).

In 1974 Marie Versini married author and director Pierre Viallet, with whom she often cooperated. He passed away in 2013.

Trailer of Winnetou I. Teil/Apache Gold (1963). Source: RialtoFilm (YouTube).

Jean-Paul Belmondo fights the Nazi invasion of Paris with the help of Marie Versini in Paris brûle-t-il?/Is Paris Burning? (1966). Source: Mondobelmondo (YouTube).

Source:, Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), AllMovie, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

1 comment:

  1. Of all her films, I've really only heard of Apache Gold. She was - is - very beautiful.