Stephen Boyd and beautiful Austrian actress Marisa Mell made a very handsome couple. They dated during 1971 and married in a gypsy ceremony before going their separate ways. Stephen Boyd made 2 films with Austrian actress Marisa Mell from in 1971 – Marta and The Great Swindle. During the first film, Boyd dodged Mell’s amorous advances, but by the time the second film was made a few months later, Boyd was pursuing Mell. For Boyd, Mell represented his ideal femme fatale. He once admitted that dark, exotic brunettes were his biggest trap. “I just seem to fall for them. You can keep the blondes.” The pair became inseparable lovers for a few short months. Boyd whisked Mell off to become his wife by Gypsy law in a gypsy camp just outside of Madrid. The ceremony included a wrist cutting exchange of blood to seal their bond. It seems this unofficial marriage was about as hasty as his previous marriage to Sarzana. However, this attachment was overwrought with mystical and physical potency that was felt by both Boyd and Mell. The couple felt ‘possessed’ by their passion- so much so that they literally tried to exorcise it at a sanctuary in northern Italy! Boyd abruptly broke off the affair after the intensity apparently became too much to bear. Marisa Mell in early 1972, after Boyd’s departure, had this to say about the break-up of their relationship. It was not your usual explanation. “We both believe in reincarnation, and we realized we’ve already been lovers in three different lifetimes, and in each one I made him suffer terribly.” (The Akron Beacon Journal, June 16, 1972)
For her part, Mell would fondly remember Boyd many years later in her autobiography ‘Cover Love’ from 1990, dedicating a whole chapter to their affair. For more about Marisa Mell and Stephen Boyd, see one of my favorite blog’s by Mirko di Wallenberg –> http://marisa-mell.blogspot.com/search/label/Stephen%20Boyd.
Below you can also read about Marisa Mell’s passionate relationship with Stephen Boyd in her own words from her autobiography “CoverLove”. (A huge thanks to Mirko Wallenberg for providing me the text from Marisa’s hard to find book!) Marisa Mell devoted an entire chapter in her book to Stephen Boyd, years after their affair was over. It seems Stephen may have been her one true love.
Chapter about Stephen Boyd by Marisa Mell (translated from German)
I would prefer that the story of my love for Stephen Boyd not be told. It inspires me today, and it hurts me today. It was so difficult, strange, beautiful and sad that I can hardly bear to think of it.
We first met in Madrid. Stephen Boyd, the Hollywood star from the films “The Fall of the Roman Empire” and “Ben Hur” (his chariot racing role as Messala with Charlton Heston as his partner was part of film history), was going to be my partner in the Psycho-Thriller “Marta”.
At the press conference I saw him for the first time personally. In his films, I had always admired Stephen Boyd. But now he stood before me for the first time. Tall, slim, boyish, earnest- with a word, a great man. I had a sudden distinct feeling like a flash of lightening that he was the man of my life. Such inspirations come again and again, and the poets of all times have written about it, when secret waves seem to meet. It unites unknown currents, voltages, and electricity; you always know him. You have seen his picture from a dream you had as a child. You are destined for him, and he for you. So it was with me and Stephen Boyd. Only unfortunately he seemed unaware of this secret connection between us which I felt. He was friendly and polite, but he actually ignored me. It was the toughest shooting experience I have ever been through.
He treated me like a piece of prop! I did everything, almost desperately, to get his attention. When we kissed in front of the camera, I put all the passion I had into that kiss. They were not cool, calculated film kisses on the upper lip, but hot and genuine. I believe that he had never been kissed on camera like that before! But Stephen Boyd remained cold. He seemed to feel nothing. I felt crazy and began to doubt myself. I had the most absurd thoughts about Stephen Boyd. Every day I spent 12 hours with this man. I had to hug him, look him in the eyes, touch his skin. It was almost unbearable. It was torture. I spent eight weeks showing him only my best side – sweet, cute, seductive, open, mysterious – everything! It was no use.
On set photos of Boyd and Mell during the filming of “Marta”, early 1971
When we drove back late in the evening to Madrid after an outdoor shoot, I played as if I was exhausted, resting my head on his shoulder, snuggling up to him, purring like a tired kitten. There was no point. At night I called him in his hotel room, “Stephen, I cannot sleep, I’m still all over the place in my head. Can I come over to see you, just for a drink?” But he answered correctly – appallingly – “Marisa, you know that we will have to work hard tomorrow. We both need our sleep.” Nothing was effective. It was enough to make you go out of your skin.
The filming of the movie for eight weeks had finally passed. We said goodbye politely to each other and I flew back to Rome. It was still scorching me. “This is something you will never do again! That Boyd can go to the devil!”
Six months went by and my painful memories of him began to slowly fade. I began to forget him. Then I was given my next film. I would be returning to Spain, and my partner in this movie would be Stephen Boyd.
I accepted this, but said to myself. “This time you are going to control yourself. You will not make a fool of yourself again over this man.”
At the airport in Madrid we met again. I acted very cool. But Stephen Boyd came up to me, beaming all over his face, and gave me a hug and kissed me on both cheeks. What the hell was happening?
I remained very cautious. Stephen seemed to wonder why I was not quite as nice as I was before. Now he suddenly sent me red roses and asked me gently if I would have dinner with him. Alone, of course. He looked at me suddenly in a way that made me weak in the knees despite my good intentions. It was gorgeous as every moment he was courting me! My laboriously suppressed passion flared up again.
One evening I went to a local flamenco in Madrid’s old town with him. He looked like a god. Added to this was that I love the music and dances of flamenco above all else. It always unleashes in me a rush of great emotion, that evening still far stronger because Stephen was with me. He embraced me and kissed me passionately. I gasped. When he asked me, “Where do you want to go? My place or yours?” I began to stutter. “To yours,” I whispered then. There was such a feeling of happiness in me I could not believe it.
He was just so awesome in his passion, his tenderness and his masculinity that I completely lost my head. Finally I asked him the reason why he was now changed so completely after he had been so dismissive before. He was thoughtful, “In the beginning you were too aggressive. I was just at the end of a difficult and desperate love affair. Mentally I was destroyed, and I just wanted to be left alone. I also felt an incredibly dangerous woman in you. To engage with you would mean to never get away from you. That’s why I had completely shut down.”
Yet in the same night he asked me suddenly: “Will you marry me?”
“Yes, no. I don’t know.”
Then he said, “Ok, we can get married in our own way, with gypsies. Right now, come on, get up!”
So we celebrated a Gypsy wedding. Out in the country outside of Madrid lived Medina, the gypsy king with black hair and pale blue eyes. Medina kept in his camp hundreds of horses, the most beautiful in Spain, which he rented to Western productions. I walked barefoot, my hair was loose and I was wearing a silk dress with colorful ruffles and frills. Stephen, my love for a night, looked better than any Torero, and I was his Spanish woman. He wore an open, white linen shirt which was long with wide-sleeves, black, tight trousers and black boots which gave him a Spanish flair, despite his dark blond hair and his green eyes.
It was raining in the morning when we arrived at the gypsy camp. I started to cry and I did not know why. There are just feelings that have no name. I walked in the camp of gypsy women, and Stephen was in the camp of the men. Two carriages drawn by four horses drove up. The carriage with white horses for meant for me. The coach for Stephen was drawn by black horses. In an insane ride his carriage circled the gypsy camp. Medina, the gypsy king, drove and Stephen sat next to him. Then they galloped into the square in the middle of the camp and stopped in from the of women’s camp. Medina dismounted and called – “It’s ready.”
Now my white coach circled three times around the camp and came to stay in front of a huge bonfire in the middle. I get goose bumps even today when I think of the spectacle. The towering flames, the Flamenco music, the metallic sound of the guitars, the clatter of provocative castanets, the cries of the gypsy and her wild vocals were just fantastic.
We stood in front of the fire and Medina pulled out a small dagger. He carved my wrist and Stephen’s, and the blood flowed up. He sang in a shrill voice. It sounded like the cry of an Arab Muezzin. He drew our two arms near and pressed them to each other against the wounds. Our blood united, we were now husband and wife according to Gypsy custom. The subsequent festival lasted three days. It consisted of dancing and eating.
Our wedding night was just as unusual as our marriage. We drove to Asturias in the car, as we had to do exteriors in Oviedo. We were tired and just had this narrow bed. That night we did not sleep a wink. One of us was always falling out of the bed, and we laughed like children.
I loved Stephen Boyd so much that I had to look at him almost constantly in order to believe that he really was, really existed. Apart from the two of us there was nothing left in the world. If he had to move on shooting, I ran through the entire film camp looking for him. I was in the bathroom in my caravan, I would hear him call ‘Marisa, where are you?” We could simply not be separated. We could not bear to lose sight of each other even for a few minutes. We were completely lost in our love, obsessively. When the movie was over filming in Spain, we traveled together to Rome. We could both not be certain whether it was physical attraction or pure obsession between us.
Since this obsession had something demonic, evil for us, we decided to embark on a pilgrimage, to free us from it. We drove to Sarsina, a small town in the mountains of the Apennines, about forty kilometers southwest of Rimini. There is a church dedicated to San Vicino, who lived there in the 3rd century. From time immemorial pilgrimages took place here for those who believed they were possessed by an evil demon.
Our demon was our passion. We were, as it is in San Vicino custom, made to wear a broad iron ring around the neck. We humbly bowed and prayed. The priest blessed us that we might be ‘pure’. He celebrated the prescribed ritual for exorcism. It was kind of a supernatural experience. Perhaps you smile today over such hocus-pocus. At that time I felt is was not ridiculous, although I see myself as a clear-headed woman. But my connection to Stephen just had something very mystical, inscrutable in itself, and he felt the same way. Sometimes love is like a deadly disease, sometimes it makes you feel that you are damned for all eternity. Trying to explain the reasons for this is impossible. There are things in our lives that are too high for our philosophy.
Stephen and I returned to Rome, but we did not feel absolved. The demon of passion was still living in us. Suddenly Stephen developed a high fever. At first we thought it was a flu, but the doctor who examined him could not detect any such disease. Organically Stephen was completely healthy, but his psyche struggled against something that threatened to destroy him internally. In modern medicine, one would speak of a psychosomatic disorder, but I know the reason: his innermost being struggled against his love for me.
One morning, when he was in my arms, still feverish, he made a decision. “Marisa, I have to go, to get away from you.” I did not understand him, or rather, I did not want to understand him. I wanted to believe it was only some bizarre whim of his. But deadly serious, he continued, “I must leave you, for I know full well that one day you will go. I would not endure. I just got to go now, as long as I can save myself yet.”
I begged him to stay. I was crying uncontrollably, but everything was useless. He left me on the same day. I never saw Stephen again. On 2 June, 1977, he died in Los Angeles of heart failure. But sometimes I have the feeling that he is speaking to me – from another world.
Articles concerning Mell and Boyd’s marriage and breakup below.
Spanish magazine photos below of Mell and Boyd during the filming of The Great Swindle in 1971.
Below, photos of Boyd and Mell during the filming of Marta in 1970
Lobby cards below of Boyd and Mell for “The Great Swindle”, their 2nd film together.