Berenson, Marisa

Berenson, Marisa
(February 15, 1948– )
   Marisa Victoria Schiaparelli Berenson was born into prominence as the daughter of diplomat and shipping magnate Robert Berenson and Marisa Schiaparelli, who would become the Marquesa Cacciapuot Di Juliana. Marisa (pronounced “mah-REEza”) is a variation on Maria Louisa. Young Marisa’s grandmother, fashion maven Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973), dressed the leading names in entertainment and society for many years, and she was famous for introducing bold colors into fashion design, the most well-known being a variety of hot pink which she labeled “shocking pink. ” Marisa’s great-uncle Bernard Berenson was an international socialite and art historian. Despite such a formidable family, Berenson bristles at the notion that her life was handed to her on a silver platter. “I’ve always made my own money since I was seventeen! Everybody thinks I’m just a jetsetting playgirl,” she told Cue in 1975. However, she did not deny having a tidy cushion of trust funds. Elsa Schiaparelli did not support her granddaughter’s pursuit of a modeling career, chiding,“This is no work for a young lady of our rank. ” Still, Schiaparelli’s connections did indirectly benefit Berenson, thanks especially to longtime family friend Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue magazine, who took Marisa under her wing and helped make her an international modeling sensation.
   Under the representation of Stewart Models Agency, Marisa Berenson appeared in countless fashion spreads and on magazine covers throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, becoming truly one of the top models in the world. She was the first model to appear fully nude in Vogue, and by 1970 she was charging $2,000 per hour to pose nude, compared with her standard modeling fee of $125 per hour. Elle magazine once named her “the world’s most beautiful girl,” and Yves Saint-Laurent proclaimed her “the girl of the seventies. ” Photographer David Bailey showed Berenson the ropes of modeling: “He taught me that you had to flirt with the lens,” a skill that would serve her well in front of motion picture cameras later on. Berenson told the Christian Science Monitor, “Modeling was a stepping-stone. It helped me use the camera . . . the lens. . . . The camera becomes like a person. . . . Modeling is routine once you learn the poses. Acting is much more strenuous. You have to get in the mood of a scene while surrounded by chaos. It’s hard to stay in that mood and concentrate solely on what you are doing. You work long hours as an actress, but I believe it’s more stimulating than being a model. ”
   If Marisa Berenson did not find modeling stimulating enough, she more than made up for the tedium through her extraordinary life as a socialite. Among her friends over the years, she has counted the Kissingers, Halston, Diane von Furstenberg, Liza Minnelli,Andy Warhol, and the king of Sweden. She studied transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the same time as the Beatles. Berenson’s wedding to aircraft millionaire James Randall drew such guests as agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar, actor George Hamilton, producer-director Joel Schumacher, and media mogul Barry Diller. The gossip columns noted that even the minister, not to be upstaged, came dressed in lavender chiffon. At various times, Berenson’s other romantic interests have included David de Rothschild (of the prominent Paris banking family), automobile heir Ricky von Opel, actor Giancarlo Giannini, and record-industry mogul David Geffen.
   Marisa studied acting at Wynn Handman’s school and with the method acting master Lee Strasberg. Whether or not she really had been using modeling as a stepping stone to an acting career, her first film role came about quite by chance. She was dating actor Helmut Berger at the time, and they were frequent guests in the home of director Luchino Visconti.
   Visconti casually mentioned that Marisa would be perfect for a role in Death In Venice (1971), as the wife of Dirk Bogarde’s character. Visconti didn’t even bother to screen-test Berenson before giving her the nonspeaking part. Berenson’s next role, as the German heiress in Cabaret (1972), caught the eye of STANLEY KUBRICK. Without even meeting her, Marisa Berenson (Joseph M. Yranski collection) Kubrick offered her the female lead in his upcoming film. Berenson told the New York Times that being cast in BARRY LYNDON was the biggest thrill of her life. She characterized the experience as: “Hard work! I’ve never worked so hard in my life! [Kubrick is] such a perfectionist. He pushed people until they almost couldn’t take it anymore. ” She told Andy Warhol in Interview, “I love [Kubrick]. He’s really wonderful. He has a marvelous sense of humor. He’s very shy, especially with women, and very introverted. . . . On the set he’s not at all tyrannical with his actors; he’s always very calm . . . ”
   Her other films have included Clint Eastwood’s White Hunter, Black Heart (1990), and Women (Elles) (1997), in which Berenson stars alongside Carmen Maura, Marthe Keller, Miou-Miou, and Guesch Patti, portraying a lesbian who is recovering from heroin addiction. In 1997, Berenson returned with her daughter, Starlite, to New York. There, she opened B&B International Gallery, with her sister Berry (who was formerly married to Anthony Perkins and who died tragically, aboard one of the doomed jets of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States). In 1999, Marisa Berenson told Newsday, “Not a day goes by in my life without someone talking to me about Barry Lyndon, especially since Stanley died. . . . Such a huge loss for the world. ” She remembered Kubrick as, “a warm, very funny man. A complex person but also very passionate about getting things right. ”
   ■ Beck, Marilyn, “Hello Again,” Daily News, August 14, 1979, p. 8;
   ■ Berenson, Berry, “Marisa by Berry,” Interview, February 1975, p. 22; Berenson, Marisa, “Misia” (book review), Hollywood Reporter, March 7, 1980, p. 43;
   ■ “Elsa Schiaparelli” (obituary), Variety, November 21, 1973, p. 79;
   ■ Klemesrud, Judy, “And Now, Make Room for the Berenson Sisters,” New York Times, April 19, 1973;
   ■ “Leading Model Marisa Berenson Has First Starring Screen Role in ‘Cabaret,’” from press book for Cabaret, Allied Artists Pictures Corp. , 1972;
   ■ “Marisa Berenson” [biography], from press book for Cabaret, Allied Artists Pictures Corp. , 1972;
   ■ “Marisa Hurt,” New York Post, June 9, 1978, p. 6; Provenzano, Tom, “Schiaparelli’s Granddaughter: Marisa Berenson, Doing a ‘Hepburn’ in White Hunter/Black Heart,” Drama-Logue, September 27, 1990, p. 5;
   ■ Seymour, Gene,“A Woman Among ‘Women,’” Newsday, October 20, 1999, p. B3+;
   ■ Skolsky, Sidney, “In Hollywood: Tintype: Marisa Berenson,” NewYork Times, February 14, 1976, p. 58;
   ■ Sloane, Leonard,“Product Potential: Does Marisa Have It?” New York Times, May 9, 1976, sec. 3, p. 1;
   ■ Sterritt, David, “Who Said Glamour is Dead? Marisa Berenson—Star with a Taste for Taste,” Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 1976, p. 15;
   ■ Travis, Neal,“We Missed Ya, Marisa!” New York Post, October 14, 1997, p. 9;Warhol, Andy, “Marisa,” Interview, January 1976, pp. 20–23;
   ■ Wedemeyer, Dee, “Model to Act, Joins Bogarde Movie’s Cast,” Newark Evening News, July 25, 1970;
   ■ Wolf,William,“A Woman Who Has Everything but Is Searching for More,” Cue, December 19, 1975, 27–28.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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