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Catherine Schell, The Bond Girl Who Became Maya On 'Space: 1999'

Entertainment | June 7, 2021

Source: (IMDb).

Catherine Schell is the daughter of a Hungarian diplomat, Paul Schell von Bauschlott and a countess, Katharina Maria Etelka Georgina Elisabeth Teleki de Szék. She was born in Hungary in 1944, and as World War II began, the Nazis confiscated her parents’ estates. They lived in poverty until 1948 and fled Hungary, and found asylum in Austria, until emigrating to America in 1950; Schell’s father became an American citizen after giving up his title as a baron. 

In Lana, Queen of the Amazon. Source: (IMDb).

Becoming A Bond Girl

Schell attended a convent school in Staten Island, and then in 1957, when her father joined Radio Free Europe, they moved to Munich. In Munich, Schell attended the Otto Falckenberg School of the Performing Arts to study acting at the age of 16, but her German was poor, so she took private acting lessons. Her film debut came as the title character in the German film, Lana, Queen of the Amazons (1964), which was partially filmed in the Amazon. Early in her career she acted under the name “Catherine von Schell" or "Katherina von Schell,” which didn’t change until later roles. In 1969, she became a Bond girl, as Nancy, one of arch villain Blofeld’s ‘Angels of Death’ in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond was played by George Lazenby in this film, his only appearance as Bond. Also in 1969, Schell played the role of Clementine Taplin in Hammer Films’ Moon Zero Two; she played a character who was searching for her brother, a miner who was missing on the far side of the moon.

In On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Source: (Cinema Museum).

She Acted With Peter Sellers

In 1972, credited as Catherine Schell, she appeared with Bette Davis in Madame Sin, a television film made by ITC. She was in Callan (1974) and The Black Windmill (1974) before her next big roles. She played the role of Lady Claudine Lytton in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975). In the film, she had a tendency to laugh uncontrollably at Peter Sellers’ behavior, and she does appear to be stifling laughter in a few scenes. Her acting in the film has been cited as an example of  breaking character, although she has said that it was in character for Lady Lytton to laugh at Clouseau, Sellers’ character. She appeared again with Sellers in The Prisoner of Zenda (1979). 

With Christopher Plummer in The Return of the Pink Panther. Source: (IMDb).

She Was A Shape-shifter

Much of her career was on the small screen, beginning with a West German comedy, Till Eulenspiegel (1967). She appeared in more than 47 series over a period of around 30 years. She had two roles in the British series Space: 1999, first as a robotic servant, but then returning in the second season as Maya, the shape shifting metamorph from the planet Psychon. This wasn’t her only appearance in British science fiction, as she played Countess Scarlioni and in the Doctor Who serial City of Death (1979), with a script by Douglas Adams, written under the pen name of David Agnew. In addition to guest appearances in series such as The Persuaders!, Arthur of the Britons, and Bergerac, she had regular roles on several series, including Looking for Clancy, and The Adventurer

With Martin Landau in Space: 1999. Source: (Tumbler).

Her Personal Life

She met and married her first husband, actor William Marlowe, while filming Amsterdam Affair in 1968. They divorced in 1977, and Schell married director Bill Hays in 1982. They worked together on the TV production of Ivan Turgenev’s play A Month in the Country.

With Lynne Frederick in Space: 1999. Source: (IMDb).

Opening A Guesthouse

As she worked with her husband on Wish Me Luck, which her husband was directing, they went to La Chaise-Dieu on a day off to see its abbey, but when they discovered it was closed, they went down the road and discovered a small guesthouse for sale, which they bought, fixed up, and opened as the Chambre d'Hôtes Valentin; at that point she went into retirement. She had a few roles in the 1990s, but her focus was on the inn she had opened with her husband, who died in 2006. In 2016, she published her autobiography, A Constant Alien, as well as a second book When God was Out to Lunch, published two years later, focused on running her guesthouse. She came out of retirement to play Grand Duchess Valeria in the BBC One/Netflix series Dracula, which aired in 2020.

Tags: Catherine Schell | James Bond | movies

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Linda Speckhals

Writer

When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.