“I was Winnetou’s sister” is her autobiography, and Marie Versini has summed up her career in four words. Born in Paris and trained as an actress at the Conservatoire, she was already in front of the camera at the age of eighteen with Dirk Bogarde in a film adaptation of Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”. But then she went to Germany, and when Horst Wendlandt, the producer of the Winnetou films, discovered her in Rolf Thiele’s costume comedy “The black-white-red four-poster bed” as Thomas Fritsch’s partner, he gave her the role that shaped her life should.
As Apachin Nscho-chi in “Winnetou 1”, Versini became a role model for a whole generation of girls and a swarm of boys in the sixties. In addition to Pierre Brice as Winnetou and Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand, she was the unspoiled, chaste, glowing child of nature who is gradually becoming aware of his affection for the white stranger. Marie Versini wrote in her autobiography that she gave free rein to all of her “wild, unbridled and in a certain way ‘shameless’ instincts”.
She appeared in four other Karl May films
The fame that the role of Nscho-chi earned her was only tarnished by the fact that the Apache chief’s sister had to die at the end of the film at the hands of a murderer. Her return from the realm of the screen dead in “Winnetou and his friend Old Firehand” was only a matter of time afterwards. Although she also appeared as a Resistance fighter alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo in René Clément’s “Brennt Paris?” In 1966, her acting career was still under the spell of ailing German cinema. In addition to the two Winnetou epics, she was seen in three other Karl May film adaptations from the Kara ben Nemsi series, “Der Schut” (1964), “Durchs Wilde Kurdistan” and “Im Reiche des Silber Löwen” “(Both 1965). In the thriller “The 13 female slaves of Dr. Fu Man Chu ”she played the daughter of a kidnapped scientist, and in the spy smack“ Love Nights in the Taiga ”she played a Russian police superintendent who falls in love with an American agent.
After that, Marie Versini’s career luck ran out. She made a guest appearance in the BBC crime series “Paul Temple”, and in the 1970s she occasionally appeared in German television films. After 1979 she and her husband, the writer and director Pierre Viallet, moved to their house on the Île de Ré. She was co-author of two of Viallet’s novels. In 2014 the director Philipp Stölzl brought her for the last time in front of the camera for his nostalgic three-part film “Winnetou – The Myth Lives”. Marie Versini has now died at the age of eighty-one in the small town of Guingamp in Brittany.
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