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Thursday, February 14, 2019


(Bella Mariani)

The theatre world was saddened to hear of the passing of Bella Mariani, on February 11, 2019. She was a highly experienced and versatile actress with a talent for comedy who appeared in numerous stage productions and films and worked with top names in the entertainment industry. Notable film performances include The Evil Below (1989), Schweitzer (1990) and Sweating Bullets (1991).

The message from her daughter, Odille Remmert, broke the sad news on Facebook on behalf of herself and her twin siblings, Joel and Sharelle:

“Our Mum, Bella Mariani, made her final exit yesterday (her dad's birthday), early morning, from natural causes, at the age of 88. (She was an 88-year-old who had to show her ID book, to prove her age as she looked and appeared so much younger). It was quick and very peaceful. She was with Joel. Sharelle and I were on our way from the UK and Chicago, respectively, to see her, but only arrived in Johannesburg this morning. Joel, Sharelle, and I are taking tonight and tomorrow, to be together and process. Tomorrow is her birthday, so we will spend that quietly, together.”

Mariani was also regularly heard on Springbok Radio in radio dramas, series and serials.

Long-time friend and radio drama colleague Frank Graham stated: “This evening I record with deep regret and enormous sadness, the passing of a loved one-time colleague in radio comedy, Bella Mariani, who played Thelma Duff in Friends and Neighbours, and Maisie Doakes (her finest role) in The Secret Life of Kenneth Wibley. She was a lovely lady who had a tough life, raising three amazing kids on her own. Note the Italian name. She came from Italian circus folk who understood hard work. In their later years, her mum and dad successfully ran Durban's Minitown. Rest in peace, dearest Bella.”

Owner and editor of artSMart, Caroline Smart, adds: “Bella and I became close friends when I came to Durban and we worked together on a number of productions, such as Codeword Playgirls way back in 1974 and Fiddler on the Roof, Andorra and Anne of Green Gables at UKZN. We also worked together on radio programmes and movies such as Barrett. I was always impressed by her strong attitude towards life and delighted in her capacity for comedy. Sadly, we lost touch when she moved to Johannesburg but my scrapbooks are always here to remind me of some of the times we worked together. Here are a couple of photographs of fond memories:


(Caroline Smart with Bella Mariani in “Fiddler on the Roof and with Brian Darnley & Bella Mariani in “Codeword Playgirls”)

Casting director Thorsten Wedekind also pays tribute:

“R.I.P Bella Mariani. We travelled a long road together, popping in & out of each other's lives. Professionally, over a 24-year period, I had the privilege of memorably sharing a stage with her, three times - from the first time, in Oliver!, in 1983, when I was still a student, in Durban, to The Sound Of Music & My Fair Lady, both at the State Theatre, in Pretoria, many years later, in 2005 & 2006, respectively. She was also there for my first radio play, in 1988, in the waning days of radio drama, in Durban. In my capacity as casting director, I was able to cast her twice, for a short film in 2002 & a series in 2009. I'll never forget struggling slightly to cast an elderly lady for a movie in 1997, because her scripted dialogue was a veritable litany of foul language - perhaps understandably, the small pool of refined senior actresses available to me, had a bit of difficulty convincingly letting loose with this colourful barrage at the auditions! Discussing this dilemma with an agent, she immediately said, "Oh, Bella will do it!" And, of course, always the complete pro, she did exactly that, swearing like a trouper & filling the air with eyebrow-raising invective! She was approaching her seventies then. She was cast on the spot - unfortunately, however, the movie ultimately never got made!

But, over & above these encounters in the workplace, and on a far more important level, we also became close friends, spending a lot of time together in later years, even sharing a house, at one stage. And, along with that, came friendships with her daughters, Odille & Sharelle, and son, Joel. It was fascinating to listen to the recollections & anecdotes of an eventful life - she was the only person I've known, who grew up working in the circus! In her seventies, and as she headed into her eighties, one had to regularly remind oneself of how old she actually was, because she showed no signs of being her real age. She was certainly the most feisty octogenarian I've ever known, as well as the most energetic! By the same token, she was also stubborn, and not always easy to deal with, especially in later years - but those occasional moments of frustration were always overshadowed by the overriding enrichment she brought to my life, and those of many others, in knowing her, and spending time with her - I value & treasure that.

I regret the lack of contact, dictated by circumstances, in the last 2 years - it's the recurring life lesson: don't delay with your intentions, because you never know when it might be too late! To me, Bella seemed indestructible, and I fully expected her to hit 90, and beyond. But it was not to be. On Monday morning, 2 days before her 89th birthday, Bella departed. But she certainly fitted in a lot of living - an often challenging & not easy life, but always eventful - in her (almost) 89 years! Farewell, Bella - you will definitely not be forgotten, and you will certainly be missed! Here's to you!”